Monday, May 12, 2014

Simple Almond Cake

Some things in life are simple.  Like this cake.

Some things in life are complicated.  Like planning your dream wedding in less than 6 months.

Way to suck the happiness out of our being newly engaged bliss.  Darn you logistics and details.  We started off great.  Epically smooth and great.

"Hello...Father Awesome...are you free to officiate our wedding in the Fall and do our marriage prep?"
"Super, glad that works for you."

Priest.  Check

"Hello....Church we want to get married in...are you available on this certain date that works for our priest?"
" way, that is good news indeed!  Put us on the books!"

Church.  Check

At this point we are high fiving each other for being so good at planning a wedding.  Boom.  We can do this all day long!  Bring it on.

"Hello...venue we like that looks like a giant log cabin in the middle of a fairytale forest...are you available on this certain date that works for our priest and our church?"
"What!  You just had a last minute cancellation for that date...shut up.  Can we come look at the facility tomorrow?  Great - see you then!"

"Hello beautiful venue.  We love you.  We can picture our wedding reception here...and I can bring in any food I like?  Make my own cake...etc.  Yes please."

To myself: "This is odd that things are working out so easily, I think I should sabotage this awesome plan and wait on signing for this ideal venue."

"Hello dream venue, yes we love you and want to make this happen but request a week to consider our options.  What?  3 other couples want to sign the dotted line?  We have to move how fast?"


"Hello dream venue, you are booked until Fall 2020 now?  Please excuse me while I go bang my head on my desk."

"Hello all other venues that don't even compare to our dream are booked until Fall 2020 too?"

Face Palm with both my palms and all the other random palms I can find.

And so the search for the ideal wedding reception venue continues...and in the meantime I will eat 12 candy bars, cry about 2 bucketful's of tears, google search every possible wedding venue related thing I can find, and quite possibly scare off my future husband.

And then...there was this cake.  So simple and unassuming.  It was surrounded by cakes that were prettier, more glamorous, and more appealing - but a midst her shining competition this little gem shone bright with authentic charm and poise.  Throw a dollop of fresh cream on top and she became the bell of the ball.

If only I could find a venue like this cake!

I advise you all to not plan weddings, and instead make this cake.  All the world's problems will slowly melt away.

*please note this story may have an element of hyperbole to it.  We (I) am not freaking out that much, and am really happy that I get to marry this pretty awesome man at the end of it all. : )  Super grateful and I know something will work out with our venue!  Prayers that we find something!

Simple Almond Cake
Adapted slightly from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts, by Alice Medrich

3/4 cup plus 2 TBS almonds (whole, sliced, chopped - whatever you have)
1 cup plus 2 TBS granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp almond extract
8 TBS unsalted butter, room temp
3 large eggs
1/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter the sides and line the bottom of a round cake pan with a parchment circle. (do this by tracing a circle onto parchment the size of your pan and cutting it out)

Put the almonds, sugar, salt, and almond extract into a food processor and process until the nuts are finely pulverized.  Add the butter and pulse until blended.  Add the eggs and process until thoroughly blended.  Add the flour and baking powder and pulse until just incorporated.  Scrape bowl and pulse again.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Bake 35-40 minutes until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on rack.

Once cool remove from pan.  Cover.  Keeps at room temp for several days, and tastes best after day 2.  Serve with fresh whipped cream and lovely seasonal berries.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Coconut Trail Mix for the journey ahead!

Guys.  Life is seriously like trail mix.  

Sometimes you stick your hand into the bag and get something you don't like - like dried banana slices or sunflower seeds...other times you stick your hand into the bag and get something amazing like dark chocolate chunks.  Guess its all about how you eat your trail mix...I take one look at the dried banana slice throw it out and go in for some more trail mix options.  Nothing stops me from searching for more of that chocolate.

Do you see where I am going with this?  For a while there it seemed like all I was getting out of life was dried up banana slices.  I was unemployed, lonely, and stuck in a slump and things just really weren't going my way.  I knew that God had an amazing plan for my life, I just couldn't seem to find it.  I would often find myself sitting at home bored to tears, and also covered in tears praying to God asking him for companionship, friends, and a job.  I found myself repeating over and over to myself and out loud my favorite scripture Jeremiah 29:11 

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

I found comfort in these words and kept reminding myself that God had a plan for me, and that plan was to be happy and that He would take care of me.  Finally things started to turn around, and I found a job, I found community and friendship, and I found Andrew.

Andrew is the dark chocolate in my life.  No really he is.  I mean he is the whitest boy you have ever seen, but to me he is dark chocolate...and not just some boring dark chocolate, but dark chocolate with sea salt on it : )  He makes my soul feel calm and happy!

Everything in our relationship has had this odd natural progression feel to it.  I don't really remember much about him from the first time we met at a Church BBQ, but I remember him from the second time I met him at Theology on Tap.  I left that event with my siblings and as we were talking about the different people that showed up, I remember saying to them that there was something so familiar to me about Andrew and that he just seemed like such an honest, trustworthy, and reliable guy.  We were friends for quite a while before we started dating, and I just always felt drawn to him.  If he wasn't at an event I was sad, if I knew he would be going to something - well then I was definitely planning on going too!

We are both incredibly awkward people so needless to say our relationship has been awkward - the kind of awkward like when you are talking to someone with a uni brow and you keep looking away because you don't know where else to look.  It was like this painful but happy dance of "here's my heart - can I trust you with it?" "um never mind, now I'm going to hide my heart from you" "Um, what exactly is your plan for us? "Um - I don't like that plan" "Okay, I like that plan"  "Here's my heart again"  We have had our fair share of fights and conflicts, but through it all we always want to fight through it together and we always seem to resolve things fairly and nicely!  It is pretty great if I do say so myself.  Winner winner chicken dinner!

This past week Andrew and I had been fighting - mostly because we missed each other, and he had gone out of town for some strange reason (which ended up being a good reason).  We hadn't really had much alone time in the last 3 weeks - and the distance barrier was showing itself in our conversations.  He called and said he was on his way back into town and wanted to take me to a fancy dinner.  I knew something was up because we NEVER go to fancy dinners - Sunday brunch is more our thing.  He also showed up an hour early and was suspiciously talking to my parents in the you see where I am going here?  We drove a back way to the restaurant and suddenly he pulled into our favorite park...oh boy...this was happening.  I tried to play it cool even though I knew what was coming.  We walked out onto a dock over the pond and in front of the sunset and he got right to the point.  Said he was sorry he made me mad and he was going to get me some flowers, but he got me something else instead!  He got down on both knees - he says it was one : ) - and proposed to me.  WHAT!!!!  I was oddly calm as this wave of peace washed over me and I knew I was exactly where God wanted me to be and that I belonged by Andrew's side.  All of a sudden he looked so different to me and his courage made me so confident in my "yes".  

We are of course both on cloud nine...and probably cloud 12 and 15 as well!  We are super excited to spend the rest of our lives together and feel so blessed to have found each other.  Please keep us in your prayers as we begin our engagement process!  It is so much easier to take steps forward when you have confidence in your decision, and truly feel in your heart that this is God's plan for you.  I pray that you all find that courage in your hearts in whatever decisions you are facing today.  

Walk with courage, and make sure you bring some of this trail mix with you. : )

Eat your heart out,


Oh...and this trail mix was inspired by something I bought at the health food store the other day.  It is delicious and different -  truly it is!  No disappointing trail mix ingredients here : )

Coconut Maple Trail Mix
an original recipe from me!

4 Cups large flake shaved unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans, almonds, or walnuts
1/4 tsp kosher sea salt
4 TBS pure maple syrup

Toss these ingredients together then layer evenly on a large sheet tray.  Toast in 350 degree oven for 4 minutes.  Stir then toast another 4-6 minutes until golden brown.  Watch this pretty diligently since coconut can burn quickly if you don't pay attention!  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.  Once cool toss with the following:

1/2 cup raisins
cup chocolate chips (I like dark chips better but all we had were milk for this batch)

Combine and Eat!  This is really insanely great and you will become addicted.  Trust me : )  Store in well sealed container.  Would taste great on top of ice cream too!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Stewed Lamb Tangine

If I were the post it leaving kind of person this is what I put on my post its around the office:

Please replace the toilet paper when the roll is empty.  I realize the holder looks complicated, but really all you have to do is pinch the two tabs in!

I swear every time I go into the restroom at work the toilet paper holder is empty.  Pretty sure this means no females in the office know how to work the toilet paper holder!

For heavens sake - someone eat the last doughnut!

Nobody wants to be the person who snags the last doughnut in the instead the doughnut sits in the box for days until somebody decides to throw it away.

Please check your stack of papers before leaving the copier to make sure you aren't taking anyone else's copies!

I swear I print things all the time, get up immediately to get it, and it is gone when I get to the printer - so I go back to my desk hit reprint...and low and behold when I return my original copy is sitting right there...

There are four trashcans located in the conference room, please see that your empty bottles and cans make it into them.

After a meeting I go into the conference rooms and there are empty cans and bottles all over the table!  It drives me bananas that people are adults and haven't learned the skill of throwing things away yet - ahhh!

Such a slow week at work - I find myself really dwelling on these minute little things.  Hopefully work will pick back up for me soon!  In the meantime I am going to share with you this yummy recipe for Lamb Tangine.  Don't let the fancy words scare you : )  A few years back I visited my friend from high school in Boston, and when I arrived at her home after a long plane ride she had a delicious pot of chicken and chickpea Moroccan stew waiting for us - so yummy.  I was thinking about that recently and decided it would also taste good made with lamb - and lo and behold it is an actual dish.  I was uber apprehensive about trying out a weird ethnic dish - they never seem to work out for me - but this one was a winner!  I adapted this recipe from, made it a little bit simpler to follow and execute.

"Tangine" is actually a kind of pot that looks like this: 

Wikipedia definition coming up....

"Moroccan tajine dishes are slow-cooked savory stews, typically made with sliced meat, poultry, or fish together with vegetables or fruit.[4] Spices, nuts, and dried fruits are also used.[5] Common spices include gingercuminturmericcinnamon, and saffronPaprika and chili are used in vegetable tajine. The sweet and sour combination is common in tajine dishes like lamb with dates and spices. Tajines are served with couscous or bread. Because the domed or cone-shaped lid of the tajine pot traps steam and returns the condensed liquid to the pot, a minimal amount of water is needed to cook meats and vegetables. This method of cooking is very practical in areas where water supplies are limited or where public water is not yet available."

Stewed Lamb Tangine

1 can chickpeas - drained and rinsed
5 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 TBS olive oil
3 pounds cubed lamb shoulder
Kosher salt and pepper to season
1 large onion, diced
5 tsp Ras-el-hanout spice blend* recipe to follow - use whole recipe
1 TBS chopped fresh ginger or 1 tsp ground ginger
1 cup canned diced tomatoes with juices
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
fresh cilantro

Place chick peas, 2 cloves of garlic, and cinnamon into a small saucepan.  Add water just to cover.  Boil and reduce heat to low, and set aside.

Heat oil in large pot.  Season lamb with salt and pepper.  
Working in batches, brown lamb over medium high heat on all sides, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer lamb to a medium bowl. Add onion to pot; reduce heat to medium, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until soft and beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Add chopped garlic, Ras-el-hanout, and ginger. Stir for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and lamb with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil. Add 2 1/2 cups stock. Return to a boil, reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lamb is tender, about 45 minutes on a higher heat or over a lower heat 1 hour 30 minutes.  Stir in chickpeas; simmer until heated through, about 10 minutes.  Add apricots and cook for 5-10 minutes.  Spoon couscous onto a large, shallow platter, forming a large well in center. Spoon tagine into center. Sprinkle cilantro over.  I didn't have couscous, so I just used rice...use whatever you have!

Ras-el-hanout spice blend
1 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds or 3/4 tsp ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds or 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric