- Chantez et vous trouverez votre chanson -

Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.
     -George Bernard Shaw

It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves- in finding themselves.
      -Andre Gide

Monday, May 30, 2011

Booze Cakes

This past Christmas, my younger brother got me a recipe book called Booze Cakes from Urban Outfitters. Booze and sweet treats together... you know how to cut to the core of me Baxter.

I hadn't had a chance to bake anything out of it, though - I live alone and having a cake lying around for me to aimlessly munch on is a recipe for disaster. But when the little bro decided to visit a few weeks ago, it was time. The book had all kinds of tasty, liquor-filled concoctions, but I chose the Long Island Iced Tea Cakes. He's still in college, so I figured it was apropos (and maybe I could reminisce about bad decisions made after Long Island Iced Teas, too?).

Now, we all know baking is not my strong suit. So how'd it come out? Delicious - I didn't screw it up! The way the book laid out all the recipes was so simple. In addition to the usual labels at the top of each cake (how long to bake, how easy - difficult, etc.), there was a Booze Meter - a smiley face ranging from a slight smirk to a full on cheeseball grin to show the amount of booze used. The Long Island Iced Tea cakes had a nice big grin, obviously! The recipe was fairly simple. I just bought a bunch of liquor nips, lemon juice and Coke...the rest of the ingredients I already had at home. The finished product tasted like a lemony pound cake with a nice little kick. Here's the recipe:

CAKE ingredients:
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp baing soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp gin
- 1 tbsp light rum
- 1 tbsp tequila
- 1 tbsp vodka
- 1 tbsp triple sec
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp cola, chilled
- 1 cyp sugar
- 1/2 cup milk
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 stick unsalted butter

SOAKING SAUCE ingredients:
- 1 tbsp gin
- 1 tbsp light rum
- 1 tbsp tequila
- 1 tbsp vodka
- 1 tbsp triple sec
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp cold cola

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and flour a 9x13 inch cake pan.
2. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl - set aside. In a measuring cup, combine vanilla, gin, rum, tequila, vodka, triple sec, lemon juice, cola, 1 tsp of the sugar, and milk.
3. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks 5 minutes, or until thick and pale. Add 1/2 cup of the sugar and beat until yolks form a thick ribbon. Gradually beat in the butter and remaining sugar.
4. Beat in flour and milk mixtures in alternating additions. Pour batter into pan. Bake 20-30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely.
5. While cake cools, combine all soaking sauce ingredients in the cleaned and dried cake pan. Cut cake into bite-sized pieces; return hem to the pan to soak up the sauce, about 30 minutes to one hour. To serve, arrange on a platter with cocktail picks.

Yum! It was really good and got approval from my brother and all my coworkers. Since it doesn't have any icing and isn't too sweet, it goes perfectly with coffee or tea. You could even have a piece for breakfast (it's 5 o'clock somewhere?).

I felt so accomplished baking a cake - maybe I'll become one of those people that makes cakes for everyone's birthdays and big occasions (...probably not). There's a few others that I definitely want to try out. The Honey Spice Beer Cake, Pink Champagne Cake, Mocha Rum Brownie Bites, and Margarita Cheesecake all sound promising. If you're looking to bake a cake with a boozy twist, give this book a shot.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Finding Paradise in Miami

New York City is an awesome city to live in, and I'm so lucky that I've been able to go to school and work here over the past 7 years....but sometimes you have to get out.

By mid-March, the stressful and frenetic pace of life here combined with the 'spring that just wouldn't come' was making me grumpy. Good thing I have friends in warm places willing to let me visit! Though I was born in Florida and still have a ton of family there (in the Tampa/St. Pete area), I had never been to Miami. It was time.

For just being a quick weekend jaunt, it was action-packed. I got in around Happy Hour on a Friday night and we immediately went to a bar in the Brickell area - all the cool kids go there apparently. Right after we parked in the garage I got my first true taste of Miami - a guy wearing red suede Ferragamo sandals and white linen pants got on the elevator with his girlfriend wearing leopard pants. Ha! After hopping around to a few bars, we finished the night eating Cuban pizza, which has a softer dough and is filled with bananas and carmelized onions. I think I like NY pies better, but it definitely had a unique and interesting flavor!

Saturday morning we drove out to Homestead in the "country" of Miami and went to a Amish farm to pick strawberries. Who knew I'd be put to work on my vacation? The farm stand also had delicious milkshakes (raspberry-chocolate, mmm), amazing breads and jams. My favorite purchase? Hot pepper guava jelly - makes a perfect rub for beef, pork chops or chicken!

Then we were off to Schnebly Redland's Winery (pictured above), easily the most unique winery I've ever been to. No grapes here - instead they create wines from tropical fruits native to the region....avocado, mango, passion fruit, star fruit, lychee...the list goes on. I bought the Lychee Wine, which was sweet with a hint of carbonation and reminded me of a Riesling, and the Avocado Wine, a smooth white wine with a buttery, creamy aftertaste.

After hitting up a rooftop pool party and relaxing at home for the evening, we decided to go out on the town. Did you know that there is no set time for bars to close in Miami?! What a wonderous thing! I thought we went out late in NYC, but we left the house at 1am that Saturday and still had plenty of time out and about. I'm not really the South Beach-long line-huge cover charge-grimy bouncer kind of girl, but we did stop on Lincoln Rd. at Segafreda for drinks before hitting up Bardot, the bar everyone was talking about all weekend. Bardot did not disappoint! We got there around 2:30am and danced til 6am, easy. The music was so much fun, and switched in and out from awesome song to awesome song. We finally called it quits when we noticed people starting to mop the floors and clean up.

Did the night end then? NOPE. Time for after-hours breakfast! Instead of your standard diner, we went to a Spanish 24 hour restaurant (when in Miami...). Yep, the menu was in Spanish. I left it to my friend to order, and we stuffed our faces with Columbian hot dogs. So delicious! I woke up with heartburn, but it was worth it.

My final day in Miami was spent on a pontoon boat off the Biscayne Bay looking at views like the one at the top of this post. Gorgeous! It's weekends like this that make me wonder if I could picture myself living in another city. I can. Not sure if it will be Miami (although I'd visit there again anytime), but I don't think I'll be a New York City girl forever. There's just too many other parts of the country that I want to get to know! I'm not willing to settle down until I find my perfect-fit city. It's out there somewhere!