Summer Baking

Summer in the Pacific Northwest means berries. Strawberries, then raspberries, wild salmon berries, huckleberries, blueberries, and finally blackberries.

Oakleigh is obsessed with berries (or as she calls them: buhs) of all kinds. She and Daddy pick them on their afternoon walks. On the weekends, she and I have been setting out in the stroller to stock up on blackberries. Every handful that goes into the container, she gets one, and is ecstatic every single time. Que enthusiastic “Mmmmm!”

There are two great berry cake recipes that I found over the past few years.

The first is actually for plums, but would probably be great with any kind of buh instead 🙂

From the NY Times:

Fresh Plum Torte

plum cake

plum torte with homemade whiskey vanilla ice cream

INGREDIENTS

  • Âľ to 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  •  Pinch of salt (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 24 halves pitted purple plums
  •  Sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon, for topping

PREPARATION

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and eggs and beat well.
  3. Spoon the batter into a springform pan of 8, 9 or 10 inches. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, depending on how much you like cinnamon.
  4. Bake 1 hour, approximately. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired. Or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped cream. (To serve a torte that was frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300 degrees.)

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This second recipe is a new find this year. I was in search of a fruit heavy coffee cake with crumb topping. After scouring the internet I combined two different recipes and am hooked on this new combo. We tried it with raspberries and blackberries…both are excellent. You can load it up with berries and it still comes out light and beautiful!

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Berry Crumb Top Coffee Cake

For the topping:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter-chilled and cubed

For the Cake:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • â…” cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 4-5 cups fresh berries (raspberries and blackberries are our favorites)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. To make the topping: Combine sugar, flour and chilled cubed butter in a bowl. Stir with a fork (ok) or pastry blender (ideal) until the mixture is crumbly.( Make sure the mix is in pea-sized crumbs)
  2. Make the Cake: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a round 9-inch cake pan (or 8×8, or other pan…it really does not matter just adjust baking time accordingly). Optional: line the bottom of the pan with parchment, grease the parchment, then flour the inside of the pan. Or just butter and flour the pan. Both work fine, but the parchment keeps the cake slightly lighter on the bottom if any berries come in contact with the pan.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder; set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, salt and lemon zest at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and beat until combined, about 30 seconds. Reduce the mixer speed to medium, then add eggs one at a time; beat for 5 to 10 seconds, then scrape down bowl and continue to beat until fully incorporated (mixture will appear broken). Reduce the mixer speed to low, then gradually add the flour mixture and beat slowly until the flour is almost fully incorporated, about 20 seconds. Use a rubber spatula to finish mixing until no flour pockets remain (the batter will be very heavy and thick). Add berries and allow the mixer to turn 3-5 more times to roughly distribute and mush the berries (you can also just do this by hand with a spatula to keep them whole)
  4. Transfer batter to prepared pan; gently spread the batter evenly to the pan edges and smooth the surface. Sprinkle topping evenly over batter.
  5. Bake until the top is deep golden brown and a thin knife inserted into center of the cake comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Place on a wire rack for 20 minutes (the cake will fall slightly as it cools).
  6. Run a thin knife around the sides of cake. Invert the cake, then peel off the parchment from the bottom of the cake and discard. Turn the cake right-side-up onto a cooling rack or serving dish. Allow to cool for at least 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature. Leftovers can be stored at room temperature, in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.
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Remembering August 10th

It has been nearly 3 years since our wedding but I am just now getting around to putting our photos in album form. I made a beautiful book for each set of parents, but wanted a special copy with just our favorites in one for us.

Fast forward 2+ years and those beautiful images are still just sitting on the computer. I just finished two albums for other people and decided to power through and just finish mine. Two marathon sessions and two very tired eyes later I had the book complete, just in time to still apply a 60% off code.

I am thrilled with the design, and even more excited that our photos will finally be in our hands!

The process of making these books is one of my favorite things to do. I am getting a system down to take other people’s photos and create books for them and it is going smoother each time. I hope to eventually start a side business where I do this for busy people who don’t have time to get their photos into books.

Here is a sneak peek ours:

http://www.adoramapix.com/app/productembed/?bookID=725f9de1-b005-427d-8a17-9dc1dee9e9f6&size=570&background=ffffff&logo=true

PDX: Channel Your Inner Hipster

Hipster I am not. I would venture to say that hippie is more my style, but even that does not quite fit. Vashonite does. Again, hipster: not so much…and this week it was obvious! I spent two day in Portland for work and boy did I feel like I stuck out! I spent a meal texting my best friend in Madison, WI, about the awkwardness and we at least decided that my bangs were an asset.

Oh Portland, what a wonderful city. Friendly people, amazing food, great cocktails, awesome public transportation and yep, a great close flight from Seattle.

On Tuesday I visited with good friends from my masters program at BGI, going out for good food and good drinks. I learned that house punch of the day is a major “thing” at least in the places we went. Served in course in vintage pressed glass cups. I am pleased to report that pickleback is also now part of my vocabulary.

Wednesday I was at work events all day, with a few hours in the afternoon to find my hotel, grab dinner and pop into a few neat shops downtown. I texted my friend Alana for a dinner suggestion and found myself at what felt like the ultimate “Portland” place: Clyde Common. Communal tables, an esoterically vague and intriguing menu (thanks for the description inspiration Jenny!) and a very ironically hipster wait staff. Thank goodness I felt cool with my new bright orange clutch and bangs. Only JUST cool enough to pull off a solo dinner though.

Dinner was amazing: a happy hour green salad with a super good dressing alongside a lemon/ginger/honey cocktail. Super summery…great for the 90+degree day. I was seduced by many things on the menu, but ultimately went with a plate of pickled beef lips with marrow cream and cucumbers and a plate of raw cow milk cheese with honey, rhubarb compote and beet bread. And why not apricot upsidown cake for dessert? It was such a good meal. I just wish I could have shared it with someone else!

After such a long, hot day I feel quickly asleep in my airconditioned hotel room. Sweet talking the desk clerk got me a great room on the 21st floor of the Hilton with a stunning view of the West Hills. But I did not sleep too well. I never do without Matt.

Two days was enough and it was time to go home. Thrusday was a MAX ride to the airport followed by the short flight back to Seattle.

It was 20 degrees cooler and much more comfortable when we landed! I worked for the afternoon and then met Matt in Georgetown for a great dinner date (thank you Travelzoo coupon deal!) at Via Tribunali. Then a quick zip in a car2go back to West Seattle in time to catch the ferry home. HOME! Ah, nothing beats it.

This weekend is the Strawberry Festival on Vashon and we are not leaving the island. Not that we would want to with all the fun stuff happening…but if we tried it is a nightmare ferry line. We plan to go the parade, eat street food, shop for some local art and prepare for our summer BBQ next weekend. Busy weekend ahead!

Stitch Fix Review: Box 1!

A month or so ago I found out about Stitch Fix…a home delivery of 5 personally styled pieces for your wardrobe. For $20 a stylist picks out pieces, mails them to you, you buy what you want to keep and send the rest back for free! Extra cool: that $20 you spend can be applied to your purchases. How could I not try it?

When I set up my first box I asked for more “work” attire. Most of my work staples are long past their prime and I am not feeling particularly creative with mixing and matching. I was hoping for some good options when I specifically requested a dress and blazer. Biggest concerns I had going into this were my stylist sending things I liked, and second, things that would fit. My figure can be challenging to dress, particularly in the butt/hips region, and so trying things on is critical…but most of the time things don’t work. I love the idea of someone picking things that “should” work on my body rather than being frustrated with a discarded pile of cute options on a dressing room floor that just don’t work for me.

When my box arrived I was so excited to open it! Everything was neatly wrapped, and I immediately knew the pieces were good quality. The color palate was totally me and I had my fingers crossed that things would fit. Prices were good too, ranging from $28-$98. Here is the summary of my first box (and I apologize for the not perfect pics and not looking very put together…our water was off and so this was the best I could do with no shower and no makeup and a sick-in-bed husband as my photographer. Note to self…pictures from this angle are not the most flattering…)

PERCEY ABSTRACT V-NECK SLEEVELESS BLOUSE

Nice top…the color was great for me and I liked the fit, but it was a little snug under the arms and for $48, well, that was just too much for this one. It went back.

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ABRIANNA LONGSLEEVE KNIT CARDIGAN

I LOVE this cardigan! It is super soft and very versatile. It is right in my favorite color palate and would look great with jeans or dress pants (shown). It even matches a lot of my jewelry! Keeper.

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CASTA JERSEY DOT PRINT FAUX WRAP DRESS

I really wanted to love this dress. Great print, great concept and the fabric is perfect.  The top half fit well (and I love the long sleeves!), but the tummy and butt were just a tad too tight. It was also a little too short for my taste. I thought about keeping it and giving it a shot, but figured that my NEXT box might just have the perfect one and I would rather save my money for that one.

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ARONSON GRID PRINT HENLEY BLOUSE

This top was a wild card. I really like the print and the fabric and it was comfortable. But it was not really my typical style since I go for more fitted clothes. I did really like the way it looked under a blazer and think with some good jeans it would be a good addition to my closet. Since it was also the cheapest in the box I decided to give it a go.

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TOSHI CONTRAST DETAIL LONGSLEEVE BLAZER

I liked this blazer but it was too small. It fit in the waist but arms/shoulders were too tight. That image below…yea, not a keeper if you cannot raise your arms. I really liked how it made the tops in the box shine…I actually preferred them all under the blazer. Clearly I need one for my closet but this was not quite the right one. Fingers crossed the next box has one that fits!

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Overall: I LOVE this process! It was so much less stressful than shopping in a store, it felt very personal, and I really love that the boxes should get more “spot on” as the stylist get to know my taste and fit. Cannot wait to try it again!

If you want to give this awesome company a try, please use my referral link!

https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/3354856

Twenty Seven

I have this thing about dates. I call our dinners “in” dates, trips to the grocery store are dates, any little adventure really. I love to go on dates because just calling them something special makes everyday happenings that much more meaningful. So what did we do for my birthday? Go on dates!

We started the day much like every other workday. Alarm went off at 5 am, showered, and headed for the bus and water taxi. The difference: we stopped for cinnamon rolls and coffee before we made it to work. A 20 minute pause to sit and enjoy the morning was such a treat! So were the cinnamon rolls! These were probably the best I ever had, and were still warm from the oven.

Matt had 3 hours of time off to burn through this week, so we met up early for a pho lunch downtown, (date #2) then had ANOTHER date poking around Pike’s Place Market! We picked up halibut cheeks and bay scallops for birthday dinner cioppino, then wandered through an antique store on the way to the water taxi. I found a really cool cabinet that I need to measure for a bedside table…

The water taxi was totally full on the way home (an hour later we finally figured out why EVERYONE was anxious to get back to the island on Halloween!) and we arrived back on our doorstep to find a note that our hot tub was fixed! Woohoo! We still needed a few ingredients for dinner so I volunteered to go to town. Wow was that an interesting choice! Turns out that Vashon is TOTALLY shut down on Halloween for trick or treaters! The roads were blocked off, music playing and everyone was in costume. Even the sheriff and his prisoner!

I had to park a half mile from the store but had a ball wandering through the happy chaos of Halloween on our island. As we spend more time here and learn more about the community, we just fall more and more in love with this place. We are already planning our costumes for next year so we don’t miss out!

Matt made amazing cioppino and we ate it on the couch while watching a movie. Low key, relaxing end to a birthday.

There was no cake since we are saving that for a dinner party on Saturday. But there was a gift! Matt really scored on this one. Ever flipped through skymall magazine on a plane and seen this?:

I am going to be so cool!

27 is off to a great start.

Lake Serene

After a fantastic Father’s Day “breakfast for dinner” at Matt’s parents, we headed off early Sunday morning for a beautiful PNW day hiking Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls. Matt has been mentioning this hike since the day we met, and since WTA reports said the trail melted out this week, we decided it was a good day to try it.

What a stunning hike! Lush green, ripe salmon berries, beautiful waterfalls, and a stunning lake…the PNW at its best! For some reason my blog settings grey out the photos I post, so be sure to hover over them with your mouse to see their full color and glory! What a stunning day.

this was my favorite photo from the day:

Too Fast

In the midst of work emails and meetings and trying to hammer out a complicated financial analysis presentation for school, I got a text from my sweet husband:

“when life becomes too fast, I find relief at last on Vashon Island”

What a wonderful thing it will be to move out of the city. With life crazy busy (work, school, house, life…) we are stretched pretty thin and in need of a retreat. We cannot wait to move into our own little piece of island life.