Saturday, December 15, 2012

Inside-Out German Chocolate Cake

Yield: Makes 12 servings
Active Time: 1 1/2 hours
Total Time: 4 1/2 hours


For Cake Layers

3 cupssugar
3 cupsall-purpose flour
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 cups whole milk
12 Tablespoons unsalted, melted butter
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1-1/2 cups boiling hot water
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks

For Filling

14 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
2 x 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 Tablespoon vanilla

For Glaze

5 sticks unsalted butter
20 ounces fine-quality semi-sweet chocolate
6 Tablespoons light corn syrup

Special equipment: 4 (9 inch) round cake pans


Make cake layers:

Preheat oven to 350°F and oil cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with rounds of parchment or wax paper. Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk together whole milk, butter, whole egg, yolk, vanilla, and almond extract in another large bowl until just combined. Beat egg mixture into flour mixture with an electric mixer on low speed, then beat on high speed 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and beat in water until just combined (batter will be thin). Divide batter among cake pans (about 1 1/2 cups per pan) and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of pans and rotating them 180 degrees halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes total.
Cool layers in pans on racks 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove parchment or wax paper and cool layers completely.

Make filling

Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
Spread coconut in a large shallow baking pan and pecans in another. Bake pecans in upper third of oven and coconut in lower third, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 18 minutes. Remove pans from oven.

Increase oven temperature to 425°F.
Pour condensed milk into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and cover tightly with foil. Bake milk in a water bath in middle of oven 45 minutes. Refill baking pan with water to reach halfway up pie plate and bake milk until thick and brown, about 45 minutes more. Remove pie plate from water bath.

Stir in coconut, pecans, and vanilla and keep warm, covered with foil.

Alternatively, you can empty the contents of the can of condensed milk into a saucepan and, stirringly constantly, allow the milk to thicken and brown.  You will know it has reached the right consistency when holding the dulce de leche upside down from a spoon doesn't make it fall.  It may burn, so watch it closely.  If you find it has become too hard to really work with, you can add small amounts of cream to re-thicken the dulce.

Make glaze while milk is baking

Melt butter in a 3-quart saucepan. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate and corn syrup, whisking until chocolate is melted. Transfer 1 cup glaze to a bowl, reserving remaining glaze at room temperature in pan. Chill glaze in bowl, stirring occasionally, until thickened and spreadable, about 1 hour.

Assemble cake

Put 1 cake layer on a rack set over a baking pan (to catch excess glaze). Drop half of coconut filling by spoonfuls evenly over layer and gently spread with a wet spatula. Top with another cake layer and spread with remaining filling in same manner. Top with remaining cake layer and spread chilled glaze evenly over top and side of cake. Heat reserved glaze in pan over low heat, stirring, until glossy and pourable, about 1 minute. Pour glaze evenly over top of cake, making sure it coats sides. Shake rack gently to smooth glaze. 

Chill cake until firm, about 1 hour. Transfer cake to a plate. 

Tip: For easier handling when assembling cake, place bottom layer on a cardboard round or the removable bottom of a tart or cake pan. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My White Whale

As you probably already know, I have a casual love of sewing.  To date I've done several dozen receiving blankets for new moms, two sets of two decorative throw pillows, two sets of curtains, and a baby rag quilt.  Recently I started my most ambitious sewing project; a queen size traditional quilt.

Sadly, while sewing together the pieces of my 5th block, my adorable little beginner's Shark machine started making a decidedly unhappy clunking sound.  I did all the usual things - rethreaded the machine, took the bobbin out and reloaded that, even opened the cover and oiled the right spots for the arm mechanism... turned the Little Sewing Machine That Could back on and still that icky clunk clunk clunk whenever the mechanism would turn around.

So (sew?) taking into consideration that it will cost me more to have it looked at, have it tuned up, have the timing tuned and to have it repaired than what the machine is worth, I've decided to let the Little Sewing Machine That Could rest in peace.  It taught me well, and I absolutely got every cent it was worth out of it and then some!

Now on to happier news!  I stopped in at this fantastic place near my apartment called K-W Sewing Machines ( and talked to a very informative woman named Wendy about my options for a new machine considering my level of experience and my intended uses.

This is the machine Wendy had me pull out a stool and sit in front of.  And oooh my how impressed I was!  I had no idea new sewing machines could have sweet little LCD displays and so many cool features!!

This is the Janome 2030 QDC.

Here are its very cool features:

  • Top loading full rotary hook bobbin
  • 30 built-in stitches
  • 3 one-step buttonholes
  • Manual thread tension control
  • One-hand needle threader
  • Snap on presser feet
  • 7 piece feed dog
  • Free arm
  • Drop feed
  • Start/stop button
  • Speed control slider
  • Locking stitch button
  • Memorized needle up/down
  • Easy reverse button
  • Auto declutch bobbin winder
  • Extra high presser foot lift
  • Back lit LCD screen with easy navigation keys
  • Maximum stitch width: 7mm
  • Maximum stitch length: 5mm
  • Soft cover included 
I also really love the optional foot pedal.  I didn't even realize that was an option!  As an entry-level machine, it's pretty impressive the amount of handy things it comes with - including a full set of quilting feet including a walking foot for doing binding (which I've already heard horror stories about haha!). 

I have to scrounge together enough allowance (yes, I give myself an allowance shh!) to be able to get the rest of the fabric I need for my quilt and in the meantime this is my next crafty goal.  What's nice about sewing in general is it's not like many other crafts; you can pick it up and put it down for months and it's none the worse for it (assuming you store your fabrics well).

What machine do you have?  What's your White Whale?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Quilt Project - installment 1

I decided this week to start a new project - a full-size quilt!  I'm doing a Sarah's Choice pattern, and I'll be using a series of installments to track my progress through this quilting journey.

I have to do 16 12" blocks for the size quilt that I'm making.  Then I'll be doing the sashing and border once the blocks are finished.

My goal is to get at least one block done every week.  If I get time, and I have the daylight on my side I'm hoping I can do more (I have terrible lighting in my apartment and the only time I can really get good light is when I'm home during the day on the weekends - since it's been getting dark around 4-5pm lately).

So enough of the boring details, here's the first sewn pieces: sandwich style squares

And some flying geese style rectangles

And tadaa!! My first block!

It's a lot trickier than I realized to get all the corners to line up perfectly, but hey it's only my first block so far :)

Stay tuned for further installments!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Harvest Apple Caramel Cheesecake


3 Apples
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp corn starch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

Peel and slice apples, soak in cold water while preparing.  Melt butter in frying pan over medium heat.  Once the foam in the butter subsides, add apple slices, corn starch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Stir to incorporate.  Let simmer for 20 minutes or until the sauce is thick and syrupy.  Remove from heat and set aside.


1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp finely chopped pecans
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted

In a large bowl, combine the crackers, sugar, pecans and cinnamon, stir in butter.  Press onto the bottom of lightly greased 10" springform pan.  Bake @ 350ºF for 10 minutes.  Place on wire rack to cool while preparing filling.


3 packages of 8oz cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs lightly beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 tsp vanilla extract

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar till smooth.  Add eggs, beat on low speed till just combined.  Stir in vanilla and sour cream.  Pour over crust.  Bake at 350ºF for 40 minutes with a deep pan of water on a lower rack (this will prevent cracking and will ensure the cake stays moist).  Pour apple mixture over cheesecake, return to oven for another 10 minutes.  Turn oven off and let cheesecake cool in the oven (this will further prevent cracking).

Cool overnight.

Savory Feta Asparagus Tarts

8 oz package phyllo pasty
3/4 cup butter, melted
8 oz sprue (thin asparagus)
4 oz feta cheese
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 eggs, beaten
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 Tbsp chopped mint
salt and pepper

Cut the sprue into 1 inch pieces, leaving the tips whole.  Cook in boiling salted water until just tender.  Rinse under cold water and allow to drain completely.  Mix together thoroughly the cheese, yogurt, eggs, onions, mint, salt and pepper.

Use a tart tin with 12 spaces or use 12 ramekin dishes.  Cut the pasty in squares large enough to fill the pans or dishes, with enough to overlap the tops by about 1 inch.

Layer 3 sheets of pastry, each brushed with melted butter.  Cut into 3 inch squares, turning each slightly to make a frilled edge.  Carefully push the pastry into buttered tart tins or ramekins.  Stir in the drained sprue and fill the pastry to within 1/2 inch of the top.

Bake in a preheated 375ºF oven for about 25 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden and the filling is set and risen.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes and then remove to a serving dish.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


By the time I opened my mouth to breathe, the surface of the murky water was already years above my upturned face.  The scream shredding its way from the depths of my lungs gripped my throat, and with a will I'd never known I had, I swallowed it and closed my eyes.

I didn't ask for the blows dealt me.  I didn't ask to have my childhood torn from my hands.  I didn't volunteer my innocence.  No one asked when my naivety was stolen from me.

I didn't ask to be uprooted; I didn't ask to have my friends taken or to have to rebuild my life.

I never wanted the negativity.  I didn't want the years of confusion, I didn't want the sleepless nights, the hungry days, the angry outbursts, the lonely tears, the vicious tongue or the calloused hands.

I don't want these scars.  I don't want these memories.  I want to forget the smells, the loss, the consuming anger.

I want back the life I was promised.

I want to mend the seeping wounds that have tracked their way through the recesses of my mind.

I want the ghosts to stop biding their time in the shadows, watching for cracks in my defense.

I want to walk without the tangled purgatorial chains on my ankles weighing down each step forward.

I ache for freedom.

I weep for peace.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Table Refurbish pt 2 - Decoupage!

Yesterday I posted the painting and distressing I did to refurbish an old wooden coffee table.  Well today I blasted through part 2 of the refurbish - a decoupage effect on the table top with anatomy sketches!

I won't bore you with tons of details, so without further ado - here's the progress!

I used just regular glossy Mod Podge from Michael's, glossy Minwax Polycrylic from Michael's, an art knife, soft-bristled paintbrushes (medium and wide), a scraper for flattening the pictures, a hand towel for wiping up excess liquids, an art book with large-scale hand-drawn sketches, and dark coffee for staining.

I have to start off by giving due props to Mr. Kate and her awesome idea for this :)

I started with the above human anatomy sketch book and got to work ripping out every cool sketch I could find. 

 Once I had all my sketches ripped out, I laid them out the way I wanted them (approximately) on the top of the table.

Once that was done I got to do the real work!  I started on the left and moved right in layers.
Each piece was dipped in a lasagna pan (you can use any wide, flat container) with about an inch of dark black coffee in it.  Don't dip the pieces for too long or they'll tear. 

Paint a layer of the Mod Podge in the spot you're going to lay your piece down once it's been dipped.  Lay the stained piece over the glue, and use the wallpaper scraper (or whatever flat surface you're using) to get out any air bubbles.  Gently mop up any excess coffee/glue then paint over the whole area again with the Mod Podge (you just don't want puddles of coffee everywhere).

Repeat till the whole table is covered. Once the pieces are all down, take your art knife and trim the excesses off the edges of the table.  Paint the whole area again with a thick layer of Mod Podge and let the whole thing dry (about 3 hours).  

Once that is dry, you can paint on a couple layers of the Polycrylic to seal everything in.

And here's it finished and sealed!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Distressed Coffee Table Refurbish

A few weeks ago I decided I needed to lighten up my living room.  I started coordinating so that creamy colors and soft sand colors were the predominant colors.  One of the signature pieces I had my eye on to tie this all together was the coffee table.  Mind you, a few weeks ago this table was being used to hold the monstrosity of a TV that used to live on the other side of the room (which you won't be able to see in the coming photos).

My vision for the solid wood table was to sand down the worn finish, paint the whole thing a creamy white, distress it, seal it, and plunk it back down in the living room all Martha Stewart perfect and all would be well with the world.

The idea was great and simple in my head - the work, however, would prove to be back-breaking and very tiring (I did this all yesterday, and I'm completely beat today complete with sore back, shoulders, and even my hamstrings are sore from all the bending over and sanding haha!)

So without further ado, here's how it went!


  • Old, worn solid wood coffee table
  • Primer (I used Painter's Touch primer from Home Depot)
  • 2 cans of Creamy White spray paint (I used Painter's Touch Satin Heirloom from Home Depot)
  • 1 can of polyurethane to seal it (I used Minwax polyurethane spray from Home Depot)
  • Sufficient outdoor space (and some accompanying good weather)
  • Plastic drop cloth
  • 180 grit sandpaper (for the initial 'roughening')
  • 220 grit sandpaper (for the 'distressing')
  • *Optional* Foam block sander (these are fantastic for softly sanding edges without the risk of compromising the nice, strong lines of sharp edges)
You'll want a lot of outdoor space for this, between the sanding, paint fumes, and definitely the sealing fumes.  At the generosity of a good friend of mine (who I'll totally plug HERE), I was able to do this outside during a very nice day (albeit very humid).

I started off sanding the entire table so that the primer and paint would stick to all the old surfaces.  I was lucky enough to have some help with the sanding from two little darlings who were anxious to get involved with the project (thanks, ladies!)

Once that was finished I moved on to priming the entire table.  As you can see below, there were a lot of ridges and little nooks and crannies where I had to be sure to get the primer without over-spraying and causing unwanted buildup or dripping.

Getting all the edges ended up being easier just leaning the table over on its side as opposed to putting it upside down (which would have hindered the ability to do the top of the table while the legs were being done)

Once the primer was completely dry (which didn't take long since I got the quick-drying spray) I started on the first of two coats of my creamy white paint.  Because it was humid the drying time was a little longer than expected (and because I got the 2x coverage paint it went on quite heavy).  Total drying time for 2 coats was approximately 3 hours (that does not count curing which can take several days)

I didn't actually document the process of distressing since it was very labor intensive in the heat and with all the bending over and kneeling (on my bad knee this is a pretty big task - and also explains why my hamstrings are killing me today... where did I put that chardonnay...).  Essentially what I did to distress this piece was I mostly used a foam block sander at a very soft grit and I went along all the sharp edges of wood anywhere I could see.  I took off only a little bit of the paint in these areas, and on all the corners, and did a little distressing on the curved portions of exposed wood on the legs and the cross-beam.  After I was satisfied with the distressing, I thoroughly dusted the entire piece and wiped it down with a damp rag to remove any missed paint/wood dust.

Once the distressing process was finished, I had to get to work sealing it.  I used a spray polyurethane fast-drying sealer for my table.  I have intentions for the top of this table at a later date, so I wasn't too generous on the top with the sealer as it will be re-sealed later anyway.  I did do two full coats of the sealer on all sides of the legs to prevent staining or unwanted 'distressing' from wear and tear.

After all was said and done, the edges on the legs look exactly how I was envisioning they would.

I was very pleased with the finish of the polyurethane and how it made the whole piece shine too.

I think the new table fits very nicely in my living room!

If you have any questions or would just like to pass on your own fun DIY tips, I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, March 12, 2012

20 weeks post-op

It's been 20 weeks today since knee surgery, and it's been nine weeks since I started going to the gym three days a week.  I'm happy to say that progress has been coming along nicely, and I'm feeling pretty good these days.  Stairs still give me a little trouble (going up and down) but other than the dull pain from that the most I get is this ache that never really goes away.  I rarely get the sharp pains that I was getting before.

I won't bore you with the details of my gym routine but suffice it to say that I'm VERY pleased with the progress I'm making there and I'm hoping that now that I'm getting my ass back to the gym more regularly I'll start seeing some good results!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


 I remember laying in endless afternoons, when days of the week lost all meaning and entire adventures could be played out in my mind. Recalling those days is like watching a dream sequence in a movie;  I see the naivety of my youth and the callousness of my adolescence.  Those days slipped from my sap-stained hands. That loss stays with me.  But during those fleeting days; those cloudless summer days, I would lay back and look up through bright green spires and I'd give myself up.

 I would think about the person I wanted to be.  I would think about the life I might want to lead.  I would think about my family and my place in it.  I would think about the lessons taught to me by my teachers, my parents, my friends.  I would consider with meticulous care all the ways I struggled to fit into the role given to me.  Most often, I would think about the perfect surrender to time and circumstance. Expressing such insight never came to me in quite so many words... but the sentiment was there.

I remember with staggering clarity the first time I stood before a mirror and really thought about what I was looking at. It became a habit of mine; to center myself among the increasingly chaotic world I've relinquished myself to. There is a humbling peace acquainted with considering your existence as objectively as you are able. I stood in front of that mirror and saw the body I inhabit.  I saw possibility and influence and power. I looked at my face, my eyes, my hands and saw all of the things I could do with such a vessel.  I considered the lives I could change, the knowledge I could acquire, the beauty I could create.  I never considered the inherent selfishness and corruption that could stem from such lofty aspirations.

At thirteen my youth pastor told me that I would change many lives within my lifetime.  A crushing humility overtook me and a vehement denial of such a statement eradicated any ambition I may have  adopted.  Slowly, however, the seed of ambition did take hold and with the virility of a weed it flourished deep inside me.  By the time this ambition caught up with my conscious thought, I was an adult standing before a mirror and absorbing all of the changes I could see--the lines tracing the edges of my mouth and my eyes, the hesitancy in my smile, the age in my eyes beyond my years.  I took time to reacquaint myself with this person, and realized I had been pruning and fertilizing the vines of my ambition for so long I hadn't even been aware of how deep the roots had taken hold.

What amazed me was how much time could pass and how much life altered who I was, yet I more or less remained the same. We each have that core to us; the stem from which our personality grows as our experiences shape and prune us.  It is this core that I honor.  With a sense of responsibility I look into the mirror, and know that despite all the mistakes I have made, all the feelings I've hurt, and all the people I've said goodbye to I am able to take hold of  unquestionable ambition and fight for self-fulfillment.

Peace, I have found, comes not from accepting the circumstances of your life, but from accepting the person you know yourself to be when the world stops looking and you listen to the quiet of your heart. As years roll by like the slow shift on those lazy afternoons, I hope to return to the serenity of soaking in every delicate detail of  a perfect moment. Yet this person in the mirror; the adventurous, passionate, curious child looking back at me from the depths of aged eyes... this is the person I dreamed I would be. There is no hesitation as I reach out again; for boundless curiosity and tenacity; for exceeding my own expectations.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Week 10 and a New Beginning!

Yesterday marked 10 weeks since surgery.  On December 14th I started driving again (at 7 weeks post-op), On December 20th I started walking around longer distances with no crutches at all, and now on January 3rd I can around without crutches (with a bit of a limp, mind you) with relative ease.

From December 1st to December 29th (4 weeks) I gained 35° range of motion.  For those of you wondering how, that happened to coincide with my surgeon allowing full range of motion past the recommended 90° for the first 6 weeks post-op.  Thanks, Doc!

As far as how my knee is healing, things are coming along great.  I lost the last bit of scab on the main incision on Christmas day, and immediately started manipulating the area to break down as much of the build up of scar tissue as I'm able to without hurting myself.  The swelling in the majority of my leg is vastly reduced if not gone altogether really.  The only bit of swelling I have left is some above my knee cap (where the fluids tend to collect naturally just from moving around and using my leg), and a bit behind my knee cap.  The swelling wouldn't normally bother me at all except that it does prevent me from being able to bend my leg in very far.

Physiotherapy has been amazing, and I'm very pleased with the progress I've been making.  Currently I have a very effective set of exercises and stretches I do to help improve the muscle strength in my quad, hamstring, calf and hip areas.  I also augment my PT sessions with regular to semi-regular stretches at home with a tension band wedged into a door.

I won't bore you with the details of what exercises I am currently doing, but suffice to say the results speak for themselves.

I'm also happy to announce that yesterday I signed up at LA Fitness.  Their facilities are very big, very open, and very clean.  I'm looking forward to finally getting my fitness level back where it was before all this mess so I can get back on my bike/rollerblades/etc.

As far as everything else is concerned, now that I'm past the hardest part of this recovery, it's mostly just a matter of getting my routine back and my body back.  It's been a stressful 10 weeks, and there's been a lot of pain, tears, frustration and anxiety about the whole process.  But in the end and even from where I sit now, it's all been well worth it.  I'm very thankful for all the support and encouragement from my friends and family who really stepped up to the plate for me when I needed them.

It's all downhill from here!