Monday was 96 degrees in LA. I literally don’t understand anything anymore.
This week has been a doozy since the beginning of it was spent attempting to get my life in order (read: taxes), which I did and feel wonderful about! YAY! I feel like starting a blog is all fun and games until you have to file taxes, then owe $$$$ and then it gets very real. Now that that businass stuff is settled, I can go back to concentrating on more fun stuff, things I actually enjoy like cookies and cake and salads.
Yes, salads. I’m brainstorming so many salad ideas because I’ll usually make the same salad for days, weeks in a row and then get super bored and then vow to never eat it again. If you’re eating any new-to-you-cool salads, please leave some suggestions in the comments below. NOW, for these cookies, which are way cooler than salad…
A few weeks ago, Nespresso invited me to Colombia to learn more about how their farming practices deliver high quality coffee in a sustainable way…You all know how huge of a fan I am so how could I say no?!!
I overnighted some rain boots and hopped on a flight to Medellín, Colombia. From there we all jumped on a helicopter (I was maybe a little nervous about it—heights are not my friend!) to Jardín, a small town about 2 hours south of Medellín. It’s a coffee town, surrounded by coffee farms, which sprinkle the region.
When we arrived in the town center of Jardín, it was early Sunday morning and the town was full of people coming in from their farms for a day of church and relaxation.
The town of Jardín is quaint, colorful and abundant with roses. Farmers and their families drink coffee in the square, gossip with their friends, buy groceries for the week and spend a day of leisure. So, we did that too. We had a chill breakfast and began to learn about Nespresso’s sustainability story…
I was lucky enough to sit with the US President and CEO of Nespresso, Guillaume Le Cunff, and Director of Expocafé, Juan Carlos Ardila, and his wife, Davi. I loved all of them so much. Juan Carlos, whose own father was a coffee farmer, told us the story of the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program, developed together with the nonprofit the Rainforest Alliance.
I learned that there are so many more components to creating a sustainable company and industry than just environmental. Socio-economic sustainability is important, too!
A lot of coffee farmers, specifically small coffee farmers, are susceptible to so many things that are out of their control: mainly weather and market volatility. Meaning if one year the weather is erratic and makes a farmer’s crop unsellable, the farmer makes little to zero money that year. This obviously makes it incredibly difficult for a farmer to support their family.
Nespresso is exploring ways to help farmers deal with extreme climate impacts, including providing crop insurance for farmers in Colombia. In addition, Nespresso is working with a number of local partners on a pension plan for Colombian farmers, making retirement and financial stability a possibility.
If you follow me on The Ol’ Instagram, you know that I just spent the last 4 days in Mexico City and it was so glorious. I ate a whole lot of tacos, I went to Pujol (magical), visited the Luis Barragan house and saw the place where Frida Kahlo created. Goals have been completed. I can’t wait to go back! Have you been?!
I think this recipe completes my Easter content for this year. I think I’m done. Before I settled on these chocolate cookies, these were initially peanut butter cookies. I set out to bake a chewy, soft peanut butter cookie with Cadbury mini eggs. Umm…I realized that all the recipes online that says they’re soft…ummm…they’re all full of lies!
It’s Easter this Sunday. As a child, we were not Easter Basket people. We went to church for mass and that was it. We always had a nice meal but my mother didn’t believe in treating that day as a day for gifts and money. As a child, I didn’t even know what I was missing. I talk to my friends now and they all got money, candy, baskets, Easter eggs full of cool stuff. WTF, mom?!?!
I was not a deprived child so I can’t really complain at all. I really can’t. One thing that I always loved when spring time came around was carrot cake. I think my mom would buy it from this local Italian market and theirs was SO good and fluffy.
Years ago, when I first started baking, I made a recipe from Southern Living and it was incredible. Since then, I’ve made other versions and frankly, they just weren’t that good. So this recipe is basically theirs but with more spices, walnuts instead of pecans and more salt.
And the directions have been rewritten to be a bit more streamlined. But I can’t say a bad thing about the recipe. I didn’t know how to improve it—I tried. We made this thinking we would be like oh we definitely have to make it more moist, we definitely have to change this or that.
I realize that my happy place is really simple: after a workout, I love to eat dinner, take a shower and then put on fluffy sweats (I currently live in a Vans sweatshirt my brother got me for Christmas). And then I like to get in bed and edit tons of photos while I watch trashy reality TV (right this second: Real Housewives of Atlanta). I do this and am usually like, “This is happiness.” It’s my favorite time of day!
As I was about to post this, I realized that I’m one cupcake recipe after another—very unlike me! But I know you all will forgive me because these taste dramatically different from the espresso cupcakes. And they’re a million times easier to decorate!
These are mojito-flavored, so they’re bright and zesty and a lil’ bit boozy. These cupcakes are from Jessica’s new book, Pretty Dish.
I learned a lot of lessons from making these cupcakes. The number one thing: if you’re a creative person, surround yourself with people who will be brutal with you. It’s important.
After attempting to make buttercream roses last year and getting super frustrated, I gave up. But last month, I decided to do my research, get the right piping tip (hello Wilton #104 is your friend) and try again. I piped out one “rose” and I thought it looked pretty good. I texted it to Billy and asked him how it looked. I was assuming he was gonna go, “GREAT! YOU’RE SO TALENTED!” Instead, this man goes, “these look like foreskins.”
UMM OK! THANKS!
But the more I looked at them, the more I agreed. The more I was thankful to my friend for telling me the truth before I put a whole dozen of foreskin-looking cupcakes out into the blogsphere. He saved me, you know? Very grateful.
Let me preface this by saying that I don’t read a ton. I’m not one of those voracious readers that eats up book after book. I devour movies and TV shows and essays and articles, but not books. So it felt really nice to be enthralled in a story. It’s also somewhat isolating? I’m not sure if that’s the right word but I dig that it’s not a shared experience. You can walk around and replay the scene you just read, think about the characters and it feels like yours.
Let’s start by talking about the characters.
Mia Warren – Mother of Pearl, artist, photographer, mentor to Izzy, comforter to Lexie, nemesis to Elena. I love Mia’s character. She’s a fascinating person. And while she makes decisions that are hard to agree with, I understand them.
Pearl Warren – Daughter of Mia, thoughtful and reserved. Exhausted from the instability of their nomadic lifestyle, she admires Elena Richardson because she is all that she craves: stable and structured.
Elena Richardson – Mother of four, part-time journalist and wife to successful lawyer Mr. Richardson. Most importantly, she’s the landlord to Mia, which is how the two characters intersect.
Shaker Heights – The town itself is also a character. Idyllic, quaint and tight-knit. It is the backdrop of the ensemble piece that is Little Fires Everywhere.
Let’s start the discussion part:
1. Who was your favorite character?
My answer:For me the answer is easy: Mia Warren. My favorite thing about this story is that there are zero villains. Yes, Elena is technically the antagonist but I empathize with Elena a lot. I understand her need and desire for structure and adhering to societies’ rules. I respect her it. But obviously, we all root for the person going against the current, the person who risks it all for what they think is the right thing to do. I feel most like Mia. Or maybe I want to be most like her.
2. Who did you relate to the most?
My answer:Hmm…I know this is sort of a cheap answer but I think I relate to all of them in completely different ways. But not one entirely. I relate to Elena’s need for following the path that was laid out for her. I understand Izzy for seeing the BS that is her mother. And I understand Lexie for not telling her mother. I also get why Pearl is almost allergic to her life at the moment but eventually understands.
These were so fun to put together. I failed…SO HARD the first time I made these. A few of you might’ve seen it on Instagram. But the first, first time I tried to make them was actually a few years ago.
I bought this heartbreak cookie cutter in hopes of making “heartbreak surprise cupcakes.” BUT OMG that did not work at all. Now I realize the biggest problem that I kept encountering was that the cookie cutter needed to be the perfect size.
I finally figured it out and went to Michael’s and picked up this heart-shaped cookie cutter that’s about 1-inch big. It was only, like, a dollar and I believe now it’s on serious sale because Valentine’s Day is next week and Michael’s is already moving onto Easter/4th of July and most likely Halloween. They move quickly!
I will be very forthright and say that this recipe takes a bit of time. You basically make a 8-inch red velvet single layer cake. After it bakes, you punch out the hearts.
This layer can easily be made the night before and you can wrap it tightly and keep it in the fridge.
And then the white batter is made. The hearts are placed right in the center of the cake batter.
I posted this recipe on the Instagram yesterday but figured I’d put it right here too so it’s easily printable and readable.
I also wanted to say hello and tell you that I’m currently knee-deep in finalizing my Valentine’s Day content for this year and am INCREDIBLY excited about it all. There is a sheet cake for two, some cupcakes with a fun surprise inside and a few other cute and delicious things. I’m thinking of adding something savory in the mix. But then I’m done! I can’t wait.
When I walk around the neighborhood, I’m sort of surprised that a lot of the houses are decorated for Valentine’s Day. I’ve never seen such a thing before. I dunno if these people are bored or just really good homemakers. WHO KNOWS. But I’m here for it. They have heart wreaths hanging on their doors.
Another thing that is thriving in the neighborhood is all the winter citrus hanging from the trees. It’s all gorgeous. Everything from blood oranges to cara caras to little kumquat bushes. They’re all so pretty.
I didn’t steal these blood oranges from a neighbor—I bought them—but feel free to take some from a neighbor and make this cake! I said it’s ok!
I’ve wanted to make a mirror glaze for a really long time but was always kinda skeptical about the taste. It looks so fake-tasting! If you’re unfamiliar with mirror glazes, they became popular with Russian bakers and soon after, they were popping up everywhere on Instagram. The glaze is shiny and beautiful. And a lot of times, bakers will use it to make beautiful marbled designs.
When Estée Lauder reached out to me a few months ago about creating doughnuts to match their new liquid lipsticks, Pure Color Envy Paint-On Liquid LipColor, I knew it was time to give the mirror glaze a whirl. When I tried it the first time, I was blown away at how good it tasted—basically just like marshmallows. I color-matched the glazes to look exactly like their liquid lip counterparts.
The colors are:
Vinyl Candy Red (inspired by Envy Paint-On in Lava Flow)
Metallic Poppy Pink (inspired by Envy Paint-On in Lacquer Lover)
Matte Berry Purple (inspired by Envy Paint-On in Orchid Flare)
It took me about a million times to get the color right, but it was so fun playing with food coloring trying to get it right. And I maybe ate way too many doughnuts in the process. These are baked doughnuts but feel free to use this glaze on regular yeast doughnuts, too.
Their liquid lipstick is a really nice texture, it doesn’t feel too tacky or messy. It sits on the lips just right. And the colors are beautiful. Perfect for a holiday gift to yourself.
The recipes are over on Estee Lauder’s site. And here’s a link to the liquid lipsticks, which are so pretty!