Mini Victoria Sponge Cakes

with orange whipped cream

I’m pretty much over this cold – hooray for me! Kramer, of course, caught it immediately after me. Sorry, honey. At least we got sick last week and not this week, because we’re headed to Austin on Wednesday! Yee-haw. I’ve never been and I’m really excited. I’m going to eat so much BBQ that I think my face is going to fall off. Or at least I hope so. The reason we’re going is that Kramer has a work trip planned, so we figured, why not just make a vacation out of it? I’ve made a map of restaurants to check out and bars to go to, and it looks like the scrawlings of a mad man, but I like being prepared and also there is way too much to do! I think I may or may not have added 70+ places to this map. I know. I have a problem. But at least I can readily admit it. I made reservations at Uchi and Midnight Cowboy, but what do you fine people think are the spots that we shouldn’t miss? It’s been cold and sort of miserable in NY, too, so I’m stoked to get away from this rainy, windy weather and head towards some warm, welcoming sunshine. It looks like we’re going to have glorious mid-80s temperatures during our time there. The vacation gods are smiling down on us, it would seem. So let me know what to do in Austin! Is it worth heading over to the Salt Lick? Is Barton Springs the best outdoor activity? Where are the good happy hours? Tell me your secrets.

mini victoria sponge cakes

An old family photo of Kramer, Jess, Jeena, Travis, and me. We’re cute, right?

As you may know, I’m a big Bonne Maman fan. I’m sure you are, too. Who doesn’t love spreading their lovely strawberry jam over a piece of warm toast, maybe with a little butter? It’s the simple things, really, right? Honestly, sometimes I spend time making a big, beautiful breakfast with a lot of components, especially if we’re lucky enough to have a lazy Sunday with no plans, but sometimes, all I really want is toast with jam and butter. Or these Victoria sponge cakes. I’m not picky. I’ve partnered with Bonne Maman before when I made this jelly doughnut bundt cake, and I’m back at it again with the Bonne Maman because they are awesome and also they’re hosting a Mother’s Day sweepstakes! Visit their site to find out how to enter their Share the Love contest, which you’re going to want to do because they are offering $4,500 so that one lucky mom can have a super fun day off on them. Mother’s Day is only a month away, and your mom deserves to treat herself to a trip to Paris, doesn’t she? If you get your hands on that sweet, sweet, $4.5k, you can make that happen for her. If not, though, you can download a coupon for $2 off a jar of jam and make her these super cute Victoria sponge cakes. That’s what they call a win-win. My friend recently told me about how addictive The Great British Bake Off is, and so when I mentioned I was trying to think of something to make with jam, her first suggestion was a Victoria sponge. I was a little nervous about making it, because apparently this sponge cake is getting into hallowed ground territory for a lot of Brits, but I’ve gotta say, I was pretty, pretty, pretty pleased with these miniature versions. The sponge was just that: spongey. In the best way possible, that is. It was sort of light but also nice and buttery i.e. perfection. I then filled these sweet little vanilla-laced cakes with beautiful strawberry jam and orange-scented whipped cream, topped it all off with powdered sugar, and, as you are wont to do, took them to a bar to share with friends where they were well received. One friend ate four in total. I think if you can’t hook your mom up with an all-expenses-paid day off, the least you could do is make her these mini Victoria sponge cakes. I think she’ll still be happy with them as a runner-up prize. Just make sure you brew her some good coffee or tea to go along with them!

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Juicy Blackberry Pear Pie

with cinnamon

Spring has sprung, sort of. Yesterday was gorgeous! But I, of course, was stuck at home, because a nasty cold has been going around the office and I was lucky enough to catch it! Blech. Not even being able to fry up a fresh egg to put on my lunch could cheer me up. I honestly would rather have the flu. Sniffling and having a sore throat and all of that nonsense is the literal worst. This is also just after I was telling one of my friends about how I read that pickles and fermented foods are really good for your immune system and I’ve been eating a ton of them for months and I haven’t gotten sick blah blah blah. Well, serves me right, I guess. I should never purport to know anything about anything. Anyway, whatever, I could use a night in without fun things like alcohol and scream-talking at friends over loud music in a bar. I’ve heard that’s supposed to be good for you, too. I’ve also heard that pie is good for you, but I think the jury’s still out on that one. It has fruit in it, though, and fruit has vitamin C and fiber, so that’s something. Does it get cooked out when you bake it for almost an hour? Who’s to say. I’m no scientist. What I do know, though, is that pie is my absolute favorite dessert and even if it won’t make me physically better, it does wonders for the ol’ psyche. This blend of fresh blackberries and those last-of-winter pears is just the thing to take you out of winter and into spring. I used my favorite pie crust this time around, which combines butter and shortening, but all-butter isn’t a bad idea, either – I just think the addition of shortening makes the dough a little easier to work with, especially when the weather starts to get a bit warmer. Add a dollop of whipped cream to the top of each slice, if you’re feeling fancy, and go nuts. I love how the filling for this is almost tie-die, with beautifully stacked slices of tender pears and swirls of juicy, purple blackberries strewn throughout. Here’s to health and here’s to pie!

blackberry pear pie

All the fries and pretzels your heart desires.

You know what PEARS perfectly (sorry) with this blackberry pear pie? Cider. A big, cold, tall glass of it. Rekorderling Cider recently invited some friends and myself to Spritzenhaus to sample some of their wares, eat some pretzels and fries, and generally just enjoy the day. How can you say no to that? We brought cards, ate, laughed, and had a really great time. I’ll be completely honest: I was a little wary of the strawberry and lime flavored cider. I’m not usually one for super-sweet drinks. But I have to say – it wasn’t too sweet at all! We especially enjoyed it with a healthy squeeze of fresh lime juice over a tall glass of ice. Who knew? It’s kind of a genius move, really. I’ve also heard it tastes really great with fresh mint, but that’s for next time. Rekorderlig is naturally gluten-free, so I was able to invite all of my friends, which was really nice, and at 4.5 ABV, I can drink a few without worrying about wasted in the middle of the afternoon, which is not typically the case with most beverages. If you’re into cider or you just haven’t had a cider that you particularly like, I do highly recommend seeking out Rekorderlig. It’s light, refreshing, and honestly, I’ll be drinking it again even after this super-fun afternoon happy hour. Cheers!

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Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies

with two kinds of chocolate

These brownies are truly outrageous, but it’s taken me so long to share the recipe with you because, of course, things like holidays or work or whatever else gets in the way. But let me tell you this: I have made this brownie recipe countless times and they are, without a doubt, the absolute best brownie recipe known to man. I’ve made one bowl brownies and peanut butter brownies and just about everything in between, but if you’ve got a little extra time and a lot of extra chocolate, these are the brownies for you. Best of all, they make enough for a crowd. Seriously. They’re made on a baking sheet, so it’s almost double your usual 9x-13-inch brownie BS. These are the real deal. You can, of course, add in walnuts, or M&Ms, or chopped up candy bars or whatever else. They are versatile and pretty much fool-proof. However, I like to keep things straight-forward when I make Ina’s brownies. They are so rich, so chocolatey, and honestly, so damn perfect, that there isn’t much more you can add to them to make them better. If anything, I think they are so jaw-droppingly good because of how unassuming they are. To the layman, they look like regular brownies, but take a bite and be transformed. The tops are so crackly and delicate, while the interior is bursting with two kinds of chocolate, plus a little chopped chocolate for good measure. It’s impossible to dry these out or to mess them up. Really. You don’t even need an electric mixer for these bad boys. Think about it: has Ina ever steered you wrong? No. She hasn’t. She’s a brownie angel. Just don’t forget the milk.

ina garten outrageous brownies
I finally got around to flipping through the last of our photos from our Asia trip in January, ha! Here’s Kramer eating some hangover-curing soba in Japan.

I wish I had some of these magical brownies to cheer me up on this crappy-looking Monday morning. We were lucky enough to have a really lovely weekend, with lots of sunshine and mild weather, but, as New York always does, it’s come to bite us in the ass because it truly looks like The Most Miserable Day Ever outside. And I have about a mile to walk after I get off of the subway to get into the office. Uggggh. At least I don’t have that much going on outside of work this week. I’ve been trying to find a good balance of social events, networking events, and just giving myself time to chill at home. One of the best (and worst) things about New York is that there’s always something to do, right? But that can be both tiring and tempting. Yes, I want to go out, but I also hate small talk. Yes, I want to advance my career and make connections and ~talk shop~, but I also want to go home and watch Flaked (which is actually pretty good, despite what reviews might say – check it out, guys). I often end up making plans for two or three different outings during the week, be it casual drinks with friends, catch-up drinks with people I haven’t seen in a while, or some kind of networking event, where I have to explain that I have a full-time job and I also freelance and I also run this blog, and yes it’s a lot, and yeah, it is hard not being “obese” when I bake all the time (this is the #1 question I am asked and it drives me freaking nuts). This week, however, I only have one obligation after work. One! I have a coffee meeting and a lunch, but the after-work stuff is the real sleep-killer, so congratulations to me for keeping it low-key this week. Now if I can only keep it that way for a few more weeks…we’ll see.

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Seafood and Spinach Paella

with garlic and ginger

I’ve got big, big, big life changes coming up! I’m not quite ready to share the dirty details yet, but let’s just say I’m super excited. Sometimes things just happen out of the blue, I suppose. I’ve been a little lost lately, I think. I often feel all over the place, like I can’t quite get a handle on everything that I need to do, or even everything that I want to do. I tell myself that I keep lots of lists and I’m organized, so theoretically that should keep me on track, but there is apparently such a thing as too many lists, and at a certain point, yes, there are too many projects or goals or whatever else. I tell myself that I’m young and I need to take advantage of that now. I’m certainly not getting any younger. But the desire to accomplish some unknown thing to make me feel fulfilled and excited and energetic is often overwhelming. Do I even know what it feels like to be satisfied with my work, be it actually at my job, or with what I’m doing here on the blog, or in my everyday life? Little tasks that get done and checked off the list are of course always a small victory, but overall, I still have a lot that I want to do. This next step is part of that, I think. When I can share with you, I hope you’ll be as happy for me as I am for myself. Did any of that make sense? Was this just a quick, stream of consciousness paragraph that was too vague to make any sense of? Possibly. Thanks for being here, anyway. Plus, look – paella! Crispy rice, loads of seafood, and eating with your fingers? Don’t mind if I do.

seafood and spinach paella

It seems as though every other day is some kind of food holiday, but I’m not complaining. It just means I have a reason to seek out and eat all sorts of different things. Doughnuts? I’m there. Fried chicken? Yes, please. I didn’t know, however, that Paella Day was a thing, until Culinary Collective reached out about creating a recipe to celebrate it. Paella Day is officially March 27th this year, which happens to coincide with Easter, so why not make a big, fun dish of paella for the holiday? It’s one of my favorite things to serve at a party. Everyone gets a little shrimp, a couple of clams, and a giant serving of flavorful rice, soft on top and crispy on the bottom. You get to eat with your hands a little bit, peeling the shrimp and getting the meat out of the clams and mussels, and best of all, there’s plenty of room for interpretation. Not a fan of spinach? Try arugula or even kale! Not super into seafood? Add some chicken thighs and bacon, or go crazy with some chorizo. You even can get real professional with your paella party and enter to win a paella kit from Marx Pantry! It comes with everything you need to make a killer paella, including the Matiz paella rice and the Aneto Natural paella base. The rice is a lot like arborio rice, which is used for risotto, but it’s perfect for soaking up all of the liquid quickly, whereas risotto rice generally takes a bit longer. The base, on the other hand, is awesome because it’s made with all sorts of proteins, veggies, and saffron, so you don’t have to worry about buying an expensive jar of the spice itself. Genius! Check out the Facebook pages for Matiz España and Aneto Natural, then leave a comment here (or on Instagram) for a chance to win! I know I’ll be throwing another paella party soon, and I’d love for you to join me.

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Easy-as-Pie Apple Cobbler

with cinnamon-sugar

I know it’s St. Patrick’s Day, but I forget about it every year–sorry guys. It’s a drunken mess in NYC every year on this day, so I try to stay out of it. I’ll probably have a whiskey when I leave work though, so cheers! And instead of giving you the usual corned beef or Irish stew or Irish soda bread (though I do love Irish soda bread), instead, allow me to introduce you to this absolutely awesome, easy-as-pie apple cobbler. I made this months ago, but life got in the way, yadda yadda yadda, and I’m only just posting it now. I think it’s kind of appropriate, though. The weather is between warm and cold, somewhere in the middle where you overdress in the morning because you’re worried about it being cold later, and then it’s not really all that cold later, but you’re still glad you have that scarf. You know, that kind of weather. I still haven’t taken my beanie out of my purse yet. Soon, though. Soon. Until then, there’s warm apple cobbler to keep my slightly chilly body extra warm. I went real simple here. You don’t even have to peel the apples! Just toss them with some melted butter, some sugar, and some cinnamon, pat your dough into nice little discs on top, and bake until golden and bubbling. I can’t stress the importance of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream here enough. If you can’t make it happen, fine, believe me, this is good stuff. I would know. I may or may not have eaten the leftovers of it with a wooden spoon straight out of the dish after my friends left. Kramer turned around and looked at me, and I looked at him proudly as I scarfed down another spoonful. I’m an independent woman and I can do what I want. I feel no shame eating greedily out of a 9×13-inch baking dish while standing in my kitchen. And he didn’t look at my any differently, because he knew it was going to happen. That’s love. The filling for this cobbler is like the dreamiest apple pie filling you could ever imagine, but it takes less than a quarter of the effort of an apple pie and is nearly idiot-proof. Make one and see for yourself.

easy as pie apple cobbler

Adventures at Russ & Daughters, Maison Premiere, Nitehawk Cinema, and Ryujin. There’s also more on Instagram!

Other than it being a national drinking holiday today, things are good! I feel like I haven’t had a ~life update~ in a while. I got to go do a pizza photoshoot for work last week, which was super fun, and I’ve been busy between my day job, running this blog, and getting a few freelance gigs done on the side. I don’t have a ton of free time, as a result, which I get a little stressed out about at times, but then I consider what life would be like if I had every Saturday and Sunday free and I think I’d go nuts. Maybe if I hadn’t started working on all of this in the first place, I’d be used to having nice, relaxing weekends, but that’s not how I do things and even if I am totally free on a weekend, I end up photographing something or working on my blog or putting some outing together so I’m not just chilling at home, even though, in my mind, that’s all I want to be doing. Figures. If you want to follow what I’m up to, running around NYC or putzing around in my kitchen at home, you can follow me on Instagram or add me on Snapchat (my username there is @CrepesofDeath because why not). Let’s be friends!

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Citrus Matcha Marshmallow Cake

with a lemon glaze

Ohmygod it’s literally summer you guys. I didn’t even need a jacket yesterday. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t feel the need to wear a hat or a scarf. I don’t think this is supposed to be permanent but I’ll take what I can get! The weather put me in the mood to make a bright, spring-inspired cake, so here we are: I present to this Citrus Matcha Marshmallow Cake. It’s bright, it’s sunny, and it was damn good, I’ll tell you that. I swear, people had really great reactions to this cake. More so than usual. Maybe everyone’s just in a good mood because of the weather. People who would usually accept my baked goods happily, tell me it was good, and walk away, looked at my with wide eyes and said things like, “WOWWWWW this is so good!” The added “wow” is how you know, you know? Even my friend, Amanda, who said that she doesn’t typically love lemony cakes gave this her seal of approval.

citrus matcha marshmallow cake

Good eats in Thailand (two-month-old photos are still okay to share, right?).

I’m not sure what it was. Yeah, the cake is super moist from the sour cream and the cream cheese, along with the grapefruit juice. I added the zest to the batter, too, so while the cake has a decent amount of sugar in it from the marshmallows and the regular ol’ granulated sugar, I think that the zest helped it from being overly sweet. The lemon glaze is, of course, always a favorite. I like to make mine a little thicker than most, so it stays white and sits on top of the cake instead of seeping in and becoming invisible after a few hours. And, of course, we’ve got these matcha marshmallows from Little Boo Boo Bakery. This isn’t a sponsored post, guys – the owner, Hannah, is a friend, and her marshmallows are freaking delicious, so when she told me she was making MATCHA marshmallows, I knew I had to get in on that. They added a pretty green swirl to the inside of the cake as they melted, as well as just something extra special to the texture that I can’t quite explain, just know it’s g-o-o-d. You can, of course, use regular marshmallows if you don’t have the opportunity to pick up some of Little Boo Boo’s (they do ship, though, and also make chai tea marshmallows for $5.99 sooooo), or maybe even PEEPS, which I thought of yesterday when I was browsing all of the pastel-colored Easter candy at Duane Reade. So go forth and bake yourself a damn cake!

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Baked Sichuan-Ginger Meatballs

with a sweet & sticky glaze

As I write this, Kramer is sitting next to me, wringing his hands and trying to decide if he should take the L train or the JMZ, because as soon as he was about to leave the apartment, my Google alerts for the L train let me know that there is currently no service into Manhattan from Brooklyn. Ah, yes, who doesn’t love a New York City morning commute? At least we’ve wised up to checking the MTA’s website most mornings, otherwise we’d be down in the pit with the rest of the human garbage, trying to shove our doughy, winterized bodies onto the next train before the person next to us can get a chance. It’s days like these when I miss being in China or Japan or Taiwan, where, in my experience, anyway, people line. up. for. the. subway. in. a. single. file. line. That’s my dream (or one of my dreams). In New York, people shove, squeeze, and push their way onto the train, even if there is no freaking room, even if the dude to their left has his backpack on and he simply refuses to take it off, even if, for some reason, there’s a guy riding the train for three stops with his bike, taking up precious space. Hey, pal, unless you’re a messenger and you’re headed into the Bronx, bike your way to wherever you need to go. The subway is for pedestrians. /endrant

baked sichuan ginger meatballs
Acting casual on The Bund.

Speaking of traveling abroad, I’ve got these super tasty Baked Sichuan-Ginger Meatballs for you today, as well as a few photos of our recent trip to Shanghai, where we ate Sichuan dumplings almost every day. One Culture Foods approached me recently, asking if I’d like to collaborate with them on a recipe using their New American Sauces. They picked out the Earthy Spicy Tingly sauce for me, and duh, of course I wanted to use it. It’s made with Sichuan peppercorns, cumin, fermented soybeans, garlic, and crushed chili flakes – right up my alley. You can buy it at any NYC Whole Foods location, or a number of places online. I was having a few friends over one night, so I went the appetizer route with these meatballs. This recipe is perhaps one the easiest things I’ve done in a while, as well as one of the most delicious. Kramer went wild for these balls (ha ha ha), saying multiple times how much he liked them. I added plenty of fresh ginger, extra cloves of garlic, and, my secret weapon: grated onion. I think grating the onion gives this dish an extra-special kick of flavor. Try it! The sweet, sticky marmalade and Sichuan glaze probably didn’t hurt, either. Our friends gobbled these up, but we did have a few leftover, so we put them on salads with some pickled vegetables the next day. If you’re not having people over, this is a great way to bang out your weekday lunch prep with just one recipe, because you’ll have 35 to 40 small meatballs when you’re done. Freeze whatever you don’t eat, and ta-da, you’ll always have something to nosh on.

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Five Easy Popcorn and Booze Pairings

The Oscars are almost here, guys. And I know – they’ve got some major explaining to do this year. How it’s possible that there is absolutely no diversity in any of the top four categories two years in a row is insane to me, really. I’m looking forward to seeing what Chris Rock has to say about it when he hosts this year. No doubt he’ll turn a crappy situation into something we can at least all laugh at, and hopefully give the Academy something to reflect upon. Last year I don’t think I even watched the broadcast, as we were in Taiwan and I was incredibly sick with food poisoning. It was probably for the best. I don’t remember searching for any specific clips online the next day, like I did when Justin Bieber cried at the MTV Movie Awards or VMAs or whatever event it was. Either way, the Oscars are always a spectacular disaster, so for me, it’s not so much about seeing who wins, but rather, seeing who is looking stunning on the red carpet, who has one drink too many and says something ridiculous, and, of course, having an excuse to sit in front of my television, food and drink in hand, talking about movies with my friends. I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to make this year, probably just a bunch of junk food, but you know that I’ll have plenty of popcorn. Everybody loves popcorn, and watching a movie really isn’t the same without it. I figured, why not help you guys out with a little boozy inspiration? I’ve got some delicious popcorn ideas below, like chili and lime popcorn, Parmesan, garlic, and black pepper popcorn, and smoky paprika popcorn, all with a suggested alcoholic beverage to pair them with. Bust out those tequila bottles, uncork some red wine, and throw some Prosecco on ice, because you’re about to get a little tipsy and stuff yourself to the brim with all kinds of popcorn. And don’t forget to pour one out if Leo loses (again). It’s okay, Leo, you can cry on my shoulder.

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