Food

     
     

Grandma Tilly’s Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

May 15th, 2015

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Dog people / cat people; cilantro / no cilantro; bikini / tankini / no-kini – there are a lot important preferences in this world but I discovered a new one recently: those who think pineapple upside-down cake is antiquated, disgusting, extinct even / those who find it to be the most fantastic thing either side of the Mississippi.

Our magical god-mother, Kristen, arrived to Hannah’s Easter party this year with a pineapple upside-down cake in-hand and changed my life forever. I spent much of the party saddled up to the dessert table eating the cake straight off the platter (my apologies… or rather #sorrynotsorry, that’s still a thing, right?). I had been converted and knew right then-and-there I had to make it for my husband’s upcoming birthday. When I told Kristen this she explained that her grandma Tilly had made Kristen’s father that very same cake every year for his birthday. Well, dear reader, I smell a new tradition in my house and it smells like rightside-up cake. And on the 8th day, God said, “please save me a piece of that cake.”

Since this is Kristen’s recipe I decided to pay homage to her by actually organizing my ingredients before I began; usually I am a wild gal with a bag of flour in a wet sink trying desperately to find baking powder while balancing bowls on top of bowls and trying to listen to my girl Lynne Rossetto Kasper talk about lard bread and latin-chinese-polish fusion desserts on my Splendid Table podcast… Kristen’s way is obviously better.

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tall can of pineapple rings, or one fresh pineapple
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees – melt butter with brown sugar in cast iron skillet in the oven.

2. Separate yolks from whites and add a dash of salt to the whites.

3. Cream white sugar and egg yolks.

4. Sift or whisk flour and baking powder. Add the yolk and sugar mixture alternately with the egg whites, and 1/4 cup of pineapple slush (liquid and pineapple left over in the can mushed up).

5. Lay pineapples on top of brown sugar and butter mixture. Add berries if you wish to the center of the pineapples.

6. Dollop/spread batter into the pan and bake for roughly 30 minutes. DON’T OVER BAKE!!!

We were without a proper camera on the cake’s big day – many apologies. She was prettier than this in real life, but always remember that it’s whats on the inside that really counts: sugar and flour and butter and all that crazy stuff.

And thank you to Kristen’s grandma Tilly – who here looks like a Pineapple Cake Angel.

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Tulum, Mexico

November 12th, 2014

My husband and I went to Tulum last month and if it weren’t for the fact that we have 2 kids at home, we would still be there. It was truly an idyllic spot that we never wanted to leave.
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It all began when we walked out of the airport in Cancun and were greeted by 80 degrees and a giant margarita stand. ¡Viva la Mexico!
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We wanted to stay at The Beach Tulum Hotel but my inability to plan in advance turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to us. The hotel was booked and they suggested we try next door at Ana y Jose. It was the most perfect place on earth and once there, we couldn’t imagine staying anywhere else. We arrived to flower petals on the bed, sparkling rosé, and a private dipping pool! With 23 suites, you’d expect to feel on top of other guests but they’re spaced out really well with ample tropical foliage so it feels intimate and small. Since it was off season, it was quiet, uncrowded and just right for us.
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This is Ana y Jose, who I want us to be in 30 years.
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Our first night we were tired and ended up just eating chips and guacamole (an omen of many a snack/meal to come) and drinking margaritas on our back patio. We spent the evening only speaking to each other in our version of the Spanish we learned in high school, long since forgotten. We found this to be wildly amusing, though I would imagine any eavesdropping staff thought we were idiots.
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While we did not stay at Coqui Coqui, we did walk down the beach to take full advantage of their spa services and a mojito. And by a mojito I mean several mojitos. There is a masseuse named Sara who was so amazing we ended up going back for seconds! I want her to come live with me. Had my Spanish been a little better, I would have invited her to do so. Coqui Coqui  is so lovely: small, impeccably furnished and definitely the prettiest hotel on the beach. I was in heaven in the perfumeria and can no longer imagine a life without their rose oil.
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Our second night we tried to go to Posada Margherita but they were closed for a wedding. The owner, Alessandro, was so gracious and apologized numerous times, gave us a glass of wine and drove us down the street to Casa Banana. While not our favorite, I have heard others rave about it and we loved the setting: a little jungle paradise at the end of the main road in Tulum. The next evening in a rain storm, we walked the pitch black length of the beach back to an open Posada and it was such delicious meal. We had pasta with broccoli and mushrooms and the most amazing red snapper cooked in sea water with ginger, everything unbelievably fresh and cooked in their open air kitchen. It’s a must-go spot for sure.
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When we planned the trip, I was adamant about visiting the ruins. Once we got to the beach and found our chairs under the straw umbrellas, that plan went out the window opting instead for lazy days with margaritas and chips with guacamole. We read and swam and did absolutely nothing. It was a dream.
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So sad that the only picture we have of us together from the trip is a #selfie! I am also taken aback by the fact that we were comfortable being sun glass twins on this particular day.
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I paid $20 for these three bracelets because I am incapable of understanding foreign currency.
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Our fourth night we had delicious drinks at Gitano and dinner at Hartwood. There is so much hype surrounding Hartwood and for good reason. We had the best ceviche in the history of ceviche. Red snapper and jalapeño. I could eat it every day. I had lobster and my husband had the charred octopus and every bit of it was perfection.
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Our last day, we strolled in downtown Tulum to get little gifts for the kids and experience life away from the posh hotels. It was a sleepy Sunday morning and we wish we had gone at lunch time and with a good appetite because there were so many taquerias that were the real deal and all smelled so delicious as we passed them by. I begged to take this baby hammock home. Mind you, we have no baby. I was denied despite my numerous pleas.
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I fell in love with this pup.
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Our last night, we ended up at Gitano after we had a massage across the street at Coqui Coqui. We had pork and red snapper tacos and they were so good. Gitano might be my favorite spot in Tulum. The al fresco bar is so beautifully designed and with an October breeze it couldn’t have been more perfect. I just loved everything about it. The second we walked up I thought, “Why don’t we have anything as beautiful as this back home??”. And then I remembered Nashville is not exactly a little bohemian beach town. Sigh.
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It was such a beautiful trip with the most amazing food and perfect weather and I got to read TWO books which never happens in my real life. Our trip ended at a Margaritaville in the Cancun airport which is both humorous and endlessly depressing. After 5 days of the freshest fish imaginable, I ended our perfect vacation with a giant platter of “Volcano” nachos in an airport chain restaurant. And that’s when the finality of our vacation became very real.
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Come hell or high water, I was bringing all of our sea fans we’d collected home with us. I managed to pack 4 in my suitcase but our big one wasn’t going in to any bag. I actually carried it home, swaddled in laundry bags like a very sad little baby. It smelled like horrible rotting fish and I thought I was going to be asked to deplane as I was making my fellow passengers (including my extremely annoyed husband) physically ill. We were red flagged at Miami customs, sent to agriculture and made to go through the X-rays normally reserved for drug smugglers. I was accused of stealing it from the Ocean’s floor to which my response was , “Oh good lord no! I have a very real fear of touching the bottom of the ocean.” That man hated me. But alas my beautiful sea fan made it home and after a vinegar bath (god bless Google for knowing everything), it sits atop our piano as a daily reminder of our happiest place on earth.
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Next day it was back to our real life. Paradise just a blur.
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Back in the Day Bakery

November 4th, 2014

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My sister got married this summer and they took a road trip with stays in both Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC eating their way across these two great states. They visited Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah and it’s all I’ve heard about since! I picked up one of their cookbooks last month and immediately fell in love with the couple (Cheryl and Griffith Day) that own the bakery. I have since done an unhealthy amount of internet stalking and I am convinced we would be BFFs, unless they read this blog and discovered I have boundary issues when it comes to baked goods and those that prepare them. They just seem so lovely and happy and she was a Soul Train dancer for God’s sake! Most importantly, their recipes are AMAZING. My sister won a bake off in Brooklyn with the Bourbon Bread Pudding and the Blueberry Buckle is just so so good. But the be-all and end-all is their Chocolate Heaven with Chocolate Buttercream cake. I’ve NEVER had a better chocolate cake and I have been acquainted with many a chocolate cake. Bottom line, buy this cookbook! Even if you never bake anything out of it, I am convinced it’s mere presence imparts happiness. But you would be a fool not to take an afternoon to make this chocolate cake. I have just given you the gift of significantly snugger jeans. You are welcome.
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I just loved this interview my other culinary obsession, Lynne Rossetto Kasper from the Splendid Table, did with Cheryl Day. You will find the Chocolate Heaven recipe here!
my best friends Cheryl and Griffith.

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THE CARROT CAKE.

March 10th, 2014

Cake is simply not allowed in my home. I do not possess one ounce of willpower or restraint when it comes to baked goods and lest I want to buy all new jeans and schedule a consultation with a diabetes specialist, I just have to get all manner of cake out of my house as quickly as possible. That said, I do love baking cakes for others and for just about any occasion. I am not sure if it is because I am such a generous and loving friend or if I am actually a sadistic bitch on a quest to fatten up my friends… Either way, this carrot cake recipe is the best. Given to me by our dearest family friend and cake baking goddess, Kristen deLauer, it is simply delicious. I should know. I ate the better part of the whole thing last time I made it. It had to be forcibly taken from me.
Here’s what you do.

Whisk together:
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil

Mix dry ingredients and stir in:
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon

Add:
20 ounce Unsweetened crushed pineapple
2 cups fine grated carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped raisins

Pour into two 8” cake pans and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes

Frosting:
2 cups powdered sugar
1 stick butter
2 8 ounces blocks of cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
make sure the butter is completely softened otherwise it won’t blend well. Cream ingredients together and frost cake in layers once completely cooled. You can add chopped walnuts to the top of the cake, some grated coconut or just leave as is.
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Enjoy.

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Hers and His : Winter.

December 5th, 2013

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Winter is perhaps the season I most look forward to. As soon as New Year’s day comes, I loathe the cold and dream of spring. But for those few weeks, winter is the most magical time of year. I am completely incapable of building a fire that does not involve a duraflame, it rarely snows in Tennessee anymore and I am chronically underdressed, but I love the things and rituals that go along with the winter season. Here is my Hers & His winter favorites…

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Kitchen Essentials

September 17th, 2013

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Summertime is basically 10 weeks of madness. My girls are at home wreaking havoc, it’s 4 million degrees outside and we are constantly traveling. So my time in the kitchen is limited at best. Once Fall sets in, I long to be back in the kitchen cooking and baking to make up for all that lost time. In that spirit, I thought I’d round up a number of my kitchen essentials; some I can’t live without, a few that I am still dreaming about and all of which will make your own kitchen efficient, well appointed and all and all, a happy place to be this fall.

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