whoopie pies + books: the sequel

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There is so much I want to tell you but I can’t say anything yet. However, I will reveal this: I’ve got it bad for the whoopie pie. I’m talking full-blown addict. I’m talking whoopie bites at 2:30-in-the-can-you-believe-morning kind of bad. I used to think that baking these miniature cakes was a beastly endeavor, replete with four sticks of butter and bottles of food coloring to achieve that requisite red velvet hue. Until last week. Until a sweet friend sat me down with some Crisco and Hershey’s and we got thick in the business of whoopie pies and memory.

This weekend I gave it another go, and was a bit more virtuous. I nixed the shortening, went for a richer cocoa and used almond milk instead of buttermilk. I do plan to attempt a version using coconut oil as the fattening agent — keep your eyes peeled.

Speaking of memory and all things literary {my friend Mary was the impetus for this whole shebang}, I’ve been falling in love with my books all over again. There was a time when I stored thousands of books in my home, the sort of stuff that made movers weep, and this summer I edited my collection to under a thousand and I love poring over my first editions and beloveds, as if they were old friends I haven’t seen in a while. Carver, Millhauser, Didion, Calvino, Bender, Cheever, Beckett, Krauss, oh, the list can indeed go on. And just last week I found myself talking about Sebald’s Austerlitz, a meditation on memory, and this got me to thinking that I’ve got the itch.

To write another book. Of what, who knows. But again, again, stay tuned.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Gourmet
For the cakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg

For the filling
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
1 cup marshmallow cream such as Marshmallow Fluff
1 teaspoon vanilla

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl until combined. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl.

Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a handheld, then add egg, beating until combined well. Reduce speed to low and alternately mix in flour mixture and buttermilk in batches, beginning and ending with flour, scraping down side of bowl occasionally, and mixing until smooth.

Spoon 1/4-cup mounds of batter about 2 inches apart onto 2 buttered large baking sheets. Bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until tops are puffed and cakes spring back when touched, 11 to 13 minutes. Transfer with a metal spatula to a rack to cool completely.

For the filling:
Beat together butter, confectioners sugar, marshmallow, and vanilla in a bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.

For the pies:
Spread a rounded tablespoon filling on flat sides of half of cakes and top with remaining cakes.

Cook’s Notes:
Cakes can be made 3 days ahead and kept, layered between sheets of wax paper, in an airtight container at room temperature.
Filling can be made 4 hours ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature.

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lovely living pie + tart recipes sweet recipes

making a house a home: saturday spent swooning!

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Must you shine so damn brightly? I remember a friend thumbing through one of my books and settling on this line, saying it like sermon. We were in my apartment, a time when the evening fell from the gloaming to daylight, and we kept hitting repeat on the CD. Back then we reveled in creating melodramas. We were the tele novella kind. Although it was a time when too much wine was had and so many things done were best left forgotten, I couldn’t help but hear the edge in her voice. And years later when we parted ways, she sat across from me in a restaurant and said that being my friend was so damn hard. I moved pasta around my plate, biting my lip wondering whether I should shout or cry, and she kept telling me that my success was becoming too much for her to bear. That she felt she was disappearing into the great, giant shadow that was me.

What do I say to this? How do I respond? I earned this, all of this. I’ve always worked for everything I had. There was no other way.

We were in Soho and the sidewalk was uneven beneath my feet; I felt as if the ground could give way any minute, drag me under, swallow me up. The silence was painful and you could hear, amidst the frenzy of Lafayette, the click of our shoes on the pavement. The glare. The sun was so damn bright. We were squinting at things, trying to adjust our eyes to the light. Back then we were on the same subway line, and the idea that I would have to ride a train with someone who had basically told me that she couldn’t be my friend because I was too much for her to fucking bear?!, was unbearable.

So I stepped out into the street and took a cab. When I arrived home, I walked into darkness. Lackluster walls and a couch frayed at the seams. The bookcases from an old love, an old home, stood ominous, and I sat on the floor, shut my eyes and wanted to burn it all down. Because the one place to which I sought refuge was a reminder of all of the mistakes and heartache that had come before.

If you don’t know me, really know me, you couldn’t possibly know what this home transformation means to me. I can’t even explain it to my dear friend and decorator, Chris, because there’s no context. But I will say this, my home is becoming my shelter. I come home and I’m swathed in comfort and quiet and this, THIS, puts my heart on pause.

The couch has been replaced with something soft, velvety and blue. The bookcases are now shorter and whitewashed. Dried lavender fills the vases on my coffee table and my cat has found a new home on my bench (Overstock.com!).

Yesterday I went on a shopping trip and went to Home Goods, Marshall’s, Target and Home Depot. From mustard plush pillows to feather-soft towels and shower curtains to pavers for my outdoor umbrella — it feels good to bear witness, to see my home take shape and form. To not apologize for all that I’ve worked so very hard for. To feel good about the place my home is becoming and the woman I keep evolving to be.

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home decor lovely living

no, you haven’t landed in the twilight zone!

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However, you are humbly and graciously welcome in my new home, Love. Life. Eat. For nearly a decade I’ve been blogging about writing, myself, writing, myself, myself, myself, and I’ve finally decided to take the lens away from myself and focus on my passion — food and entertaining. In this new space, you’ll see video food technique, my culinary adventures (read: mishaps) in the kitchen, snaps of places that I’m loving and a look inside my apartment of which I’m finally making into a home.

Your love, support, emails and kind words over the years are what have inspired me to make this leap, and over the next few weeks I’ll be tinkering with the window dressing, getting your feedback, and trying to create my own virtual home.

lovely living
lovely living

spinning + brunching in new york city!

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Spend a lazy weekend in New York, and you’ll spy a parade of pooches and hoards of people dining al fresco, eating brunch. Back in the day brunch was simply another excuse to get drunk during the day, but now that I’ve embarked on a life free of alcohol I’ve been more discerning about the places I want to patron because I can’t realize on the taste bud anesthesia that only a bottle of wine can bring.

A creature of habit, I tend to cleave a handful of haunts — many of which are within walking distance of my gym. After years of ranting about the EVILS of spinning, I found myself taking a class with my friend and falling rapturously in love. Once I got over the pain of sitting on an uncomfortable bike for 45 minutes I began to feel energized, re-charged and cleansed after my cycling class. There’s something cathartic about being in a dark room, pushing yourself to your limits — being on the verge — and then leaving, soaking wet, and stepping out into the warm light of day.

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For the past few weeks I’ve made in my routine to start my Saturday with a cycle class and a brunch catch-up with a close friend. Lately, I’ve been obsessed with Doma Na Rohu. From the hand-crafted ceramic mugs and dishes to the cranberry tea on tap to the fluffy eggs and lingonberry preserves, there’s no shortage of flavor in this airy, rustic brunch spot. You’ll find the freshest ingredients, local produce, organic eggs and a menu that’s full on flavor and easy on your pocket.

But if you’re looking for the hot hotcake spot, look no further than Clinton Street Bakery. A LES institution, you’ll find the fluffiest pancakes (they whip their whites into a mousse-like consistency to get aerated cakes), locally-sourced ingredients, and the finest chicken and waffles you’ve ever laid your eyes on. Granted the wait is Odyssean, but believe me when I say that the hotcakes, carefully crafted crumble muffins, and applewood smoked bacon ARE WORTH IT. What I love about Clinton Street Bakery is the lack of trickery. They’re not trying to re-invent breakfast, they’re not trying to be a hero — their goal is simply to make the classics BETTER.

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