Saturday, January 31, 2009

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.



Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: sunny
Mood: yawn
Music: the coffee pot percolating

Ok, kids.  Saturday morning hits and it's hard to get up and I'm approaching a certain unprecedented level of bundt weariness.  It seems that everyone in creation (or in my life, at least) was born within this approximate seven-day span, which has meant bundt Wednesday, bundt Thursday, bundt Friday.  A baking machine.  Not that I don't dig making badass secret cakes for some major birthday action, but wow.  I'll be glad to not bake for awhile after today.

That said, this morning's cake totally wouldn't have happened if I hadn't cobbled together a recipe that was easy and low-maintenance and fairly self-explanatory.  Needed to try something a little new, and found a decent inspiration for this one the other day, so I ran with it.  Today we're delving into the world of Curious George and Gwen Stefani, a little banana action for your last Saturday in January.  But it's been awhile since we've done anything with chocolate, so why don't we combine the two and make a 

BANANA CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE

Cake's baking and the house is starting to smell banana-y.  I leaned on a recipe from Derek's cookbook for banana coffee cake and switched up a few things.  This is what I came up with.  Super chill.

INGREDIENTS

1 pkg banana cake mix
1 pkg instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs
1 cup vanilla yogurt (use banana if you can find it; I couldn't)
1 cup mashed bananas (or banana baby food)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees; grease and flour your bundt pan.  Blend cake mix, pudding, eggs, yogurt, bananas, oil, water and vanilla; beat for 2 minutes on medium speed.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes or until your toothpick tester comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes in pan and invert on wire rack to cool completely.

Easy, huh.  But somewhat original.  I was glad for a recipe that was so quick to whip up.  We'll add whipped chocolate frosting and call it good. 

And there's yer cake.  Cheers, monkeys.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.


One of my less-official resolutions this year was to stay better in touch with my [badass rockstar] faraway friends and family.  What with all the gestating babies and job promotions and new houses and whatnot, there's so much to stay "up" on lately.  And the phone doesn't do it, and my snail mailing hasn't been up to par of late.

So in spite of a bazillion conflicted feelings and a fair amount of in-the-moment anxiety, earlier this month I finally broke down and created a Facebook account.  I've been in denial for the last several years, running from this amorphous beast that allows you and your best 1240 friends to track your every move via status update and photo tagging, freaked out by the spidery networks that come of this teenager-esque social networking site.  But it got to the point where I was so goddamned sick of hearing, "Oh, the pics are on Facebook!" or "Yeah, he told me on Facebook" or whatever, and sick of feeling like I was missing out on what had become a central aspect of getting on in the world (the same way cell phones went from frivolous to obligatory), that I sucked it up and did it.  (After circling my computer for a good few days and then running away quickly, that is.)

It's been a timid process thus far.  I've got every possible privacy block set to "on," and I've really only sought out my far-flung family members, the college gang and a few old high school music friends.  Not really many SF friends, elementary school acquaintances or any of that.  I generally hop on for five minutes or so max, avoiding the bizarro "25 Random blah blah" lists that make me feel like I'm about 13 and sitting in the back of algebra class passing notes with bratty adolescents.  But suddenly all these new social etiquette questions have come into play.  "De-friending" or whatever you want to call it, who to ignore and who to find, what will be the fatal error that starts a waterfall of obscure old grammar-school names from finding me.  Erghh.

Seems to me like just another portal ripe for bringing more drama into life.  And when drama is the thing I try to avoid, it's not really my thang.  On the other hand, it's been so genuinely lovely to reconnect with cousins from Boston and Serbia and Omaha and whatnot and feel connected long after our extended family gatherings have ceased to happen.  So what can you do??  Hold your breath and timidly log in now and then, I guess?  Until the snowballing happens and you're just another of the thirty-somethings spending hours a day tagging photos, I guess.  Shiver.

That said, here are two recent variations on this theme, worth your time (come on, you might as well spend the few minutes reading them that you'd otherwise use filling out some bullshit survey and tagging 73 of your nearest and dearest):

* For obvious reasons, a useful read.  Article makes most of the points relevant to why I finally said, Oh, what the hell.

* On the sociological phenomenon of Whopper Virgin un-friending.  And more.  Um, ok?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.


If you'll permit me an extra splash of self-indulgence in the cocktail of narcissism that is this blog, I'll share a little secret with you.  There are Big Things afoot on the resident yoga mat.  I feel a little like a kid on her first day of kindergarten: the backpack's been loaded for weeks, the new pencils sharpened in their case, the outfit laid out ahead of time, and the lunch already packed in the fridge.

This weekend I begin a 4-month certificate in Yoga Philosophy.  It's a pretty in-depth program, several days and nights a week, the long and short of which is that by the 1st of June I'll be a little bit of an expert (well, moreso than now) in classical yogic theory, Hinduism, the asanas, Buddhist psychology, Sanskrit, and meditation, among other things.  And I am so excited - like, tossing and turning in bed excited - about this.  

I'd been planning for the last nine months or so to skip out to Mexico this spring and spend 10 weeks in Acapulco with Bikram and Rajashree training to be a certified Bikram teacher, a quiet little plan that had really driven my life in the last year or so.  But when I found out last fall about this first-ever offering of this special intensive, which is taught by some of the big names on the yoga scene, I knew there was no way I could pass this up.  So I've bumped my Bikram training plans back a few months to this fall, and will start up a few days from now studying under a few of my role models, the people whose names I've seen on bylines and book covers for the last several years and with whom I could only ever dream of studying in person.

And now it's really happening!  I'm so excited.  Unabashedly excited.  For the content, yes, and the learning and the coursework and the lectures and the asanas and the seminars - everything from Tantra to the Upanishads to the Bhagavad Gita to Patanjali's sutras.  But I'm even more excited to spend these next 4 months in a cohort of like-minded yoga nerds, networking with people who live and breathe this shit the way I do, people who'd rather get up early and contort their bodies in weird positions in heated rooms than sleep in and watch baseball and drink beer at 11 am (though that has its place, too, don't get me wrong).

I got into yoga after years of resisting it, assuming it was too "soft," too wanky, too annoying.  Theater and dance friends swore by it, urged me to try it, pointed out how complementary it was to our performing interests, but I only ever dipped my toe into it, and then out of sheer aching desperation.  Two weeks after moving out here, frustrated from searching for work in a city I didn't know, I ran and ran and ran to clear my head between interviews, pounding the pavement until the SF hills made it too painful for my throbbing knees to take another step.  And so I slipped into a yoga class down the street, mostly out of the vanity of not wanting to lose my flexibility thanks to the tightening hamstrings and hips from all the running, and after that first 90 minutes of sweating and heaving and stretching and pulling, I never looked back.

And yoga has been there, my sanctuary and my exhilaration, for the 5 1/2 years since.  I leaned on it for release after soon getting the soul-sucking corporate job that kept me at a desk all day long.  I bobbled my way through evening classes, drunk on 3 gin and tonics after happy hour with the guys, trying desperately to focus my eyes on the swaying figure in the mirror.  I wandered numbly into the studio searching for clarity after the deaths of friends and family, sobbing through classes so grateful that the humidity made my tears blend in with the sweat dripping down my forehead.  I've booked flights around yoga class schedules, held off from trips because I didn't want to miss a seminar, skipped frou-frou dinner parties for the more real and delicious 2 hours of centering and fueling and feeding yoga practice.  And I've flopped around on sheets laid out on countless hotel room floors trying desperately to retain my regular practice across time zones and continents, cursing travel in a way I never thought my wandering heart would.

It's wild when you realize there's something that's so much a part of your life that you don't want to imagine living without it anymore.  I realized that last spring, and my "yoga year" to come, with this course now and teacher training this fall, is largely a byproduct of that.  The Buddhists call it "dharma," your path, your way, and I feel like, on the heels of grad work that focused on bodies and religion and society and desire but was yet so cerebral and removed from the actual experience of being in a body day in and day out, this is so obviously the right next step, my dharma, my way.  

And it feels like the kind of thing I could do for the long-term.  My sibs and I had the good luck of being raised in the warm and boisterous community that was the campus ministry setting, all donuts and forts and good music and hippie college students looking out for us.  When I think about raising children in a yoga studio environment, I picture the same kind of loving mindful community, rich with connections and friendships and people who are striving in one way or another to live well.

But there's a measure of concern involved, as well.  I see friends turning 30, many of whom are so successful and have achieved so much of what they'd wanted to become, and yet so many of them seem miserable in their bodies, far away, detached, removed, unhappy, and it saddens me, and I see yoga and yogic theory as such a powerful potential antidote to that bodily alienation, and I want to give it to them. I've sat across cafe tables from friends watching their shoulders seethe with buried anger, and I have wanted to drag them head and tail into the nearest yoga class and undo all the tension and sorrow, and yet I know that people have to come to it themselves.  And I know how the yoga has changed my own life: my mind, my spirit, my body; it has given me so much that I am proud of, not just my still-flexible hamstrings, but my attitude toward diet (ahimsa, or non-suffering, being the motivation for vegetarianism), and a certain clarity of mind, and an ability to be still in difficult moments, and a penchant for sitting in lotus, and a certain sense of embodiment that I wish I could gift to the people in my life who seem outside of their own bodies, a sanctuary, a refuge, a home, a place wherein all outside stimulation stops and you are clear blue sky, tumbleweed emptiness, for 90 minutes at least, until you roll out of shavasthana and wipe your forehead and collect your things and mosey on out the door.

Because I think it is that elusive combination of holistic mind-body-spirit religious sentiment that so much of the world is seeking right now, and not finding, in so many other places.  So that's why I'm doing this course now, and the more physiological training this fall, and I guess the point of saying all that is to warn you that you shouldn't be surprised if suddenly Raw Rach seems to have been hijacked by wanky yoga theory shit, because that's going to be front and center for the next several months.  And to encourage you to think about your own dharma, your own path, your own way, that which keeps you up at night with the kind of excitement you know will pull you from your bed in the wee hours to make notes and write and think and dream and do.

Did I mention the part about the nice ass?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Raw, idiom: 14a. in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.


One of my pet peeves is when people Purell the hell outta themselves. You know what I'm talking about. They whip that shit out in airports and parks and on the train and at dinner tables in nice restaurants. (It's the same kind of fear that keeps people from trying Bikram yoga because they're afraid of - god forbid! - coming into contact with other people's sweat.) The Purell fad strikes me as such a classic representation of affluent Western fearfulness, neurosis and detachment from the body, dirt and what it means to live amidst the grit and grime of the real world. Get yourselves dirty already and chill out, please! It'll be good for you!

So after having just talked about this pet peeve the other week with Molly and (Dr.) Tim, I was glad to see this quick little article in the NY Times about the hygiene hypothesis and the ways in which our current American obsession with cleanliness and germ-aversion can potentially lead to greater sickness and weakened immune systems. Give it a quick read, take a deep breath and don't stress so much the next time you've got the little ones at a picnic eating ants along with their hot dogs. It's not a big deal. Our bodies are much more able to withstand a little grit than we give them credit for. And when the chitlins don't develop asthma or allergies down the road, you'll be glad you let them roll around in the dirt a little.

Babies Know: A Little Dirt is Good For You (NYT)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.




I'm rereading Hemingway's The Garden of Eden (so surprisingly chic and transgressive!), and the particular edition I've got features this Juan Gris painting on the cover: "Woman With a Basket," 1927.  I kind of want to carry the book around indefinitely just because I dig the art deco colors and the Cubism so much.  

Check it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

I have about 16 new Obama Administration crushes every day, but this one's the latest and most long-standing.  Rahm Emanuel.  What a spitfire.

(I wonder when the honeymoon will end?  Because it still feels like puppies and unicorns to me.)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Random shit I wanted to post that has no feasible connection whatsoever to any definition of "rawness"


You know what I love about living in the city?

I'm sitting in my office, working.  It's noon-ish on a Saturday.  And I just heard someone else's microwave "ding."  Not mine.  The girl's upstairs.  That's how close we live to one another, on top of and around each other.  I can know that the girl upstairs' microwave noodles are done.

Say what you want about urbanity being isolating and anonymous, but it's damn intimate, as far as I'm concerned.

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.



Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: wet
Mood: shredded
Music: Nick Drake

Good morning.  And what a morning.  Wet and chilly and wintery.  They're still talking about water rationing around here once summer hits, but for now, we're finally out of that strange springtime blast and getting the wetness we need.  When it's this humid outside, the air at the yoga studio is like a tropical rainforest, thick and heavy and juicy.  You sweat out all your bodily fluids.  I can't wait to go in a few minutes.

Anyway, wow - busy week.  Obama and ballgowns and inaugural parades (with the UD marching band!) and an amazing first 3 days in office and the repeal of the global gag rule and work and life and lots going on.  Didn't even think about a recipe till yesterday, so this morning you get a classic no-brainer, one that everyone loves and yet I surprisingly still haven't (to this point) made.  Thanks to Derek's cookbook again for providing this particular version.  Let's get on with a 

CARROT SPICE BUNDT CAKE

Mmm, delish.  One of my favorites, one of many peoples' favorites.  This recipe adds a few nice touches that should make it good and moist.  

INGREDIENTS

1 pkg spiced cake mix
1 pkg instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs
1 cup apple cinnamon yogurt (I used vanilla)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 teas vanilla extract
1/2 teas ginger
1/2 teas cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup shredded carrots

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour your bundt.  In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding, eggs, yogurt, oil, water, vanilla, ginger and cinnamon.  Beat for two minutes at medium speed.  Add raisins, walnuts and carrots and stir until just mixed.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack for cooling.

I've had good success with adding pineapple to carrot cakes in the past, but wasn't feeling it this morning; the raisins and walnuts will do.  Don't make the mistake of buying baby carrots instead of the large ones, though; I did that myself and nearly shredded my fingers off trying to shred those stubby little things.

We'll do the obvious cream cheese frosting and sprinkle a few chopped (and toasted) walnuts on top, as well.  Easy, popular, warm comfort food.  Great for a wet and drippy January day.  And a little beta-carotene, as well.

Cheers.

(And that's Rothko, 1956, above, of course.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air


Slightly obsessed with winter white these days.  I've always had a weird thing for monochromatics, but there's something particular about winter white.  I've got this great sort of 1960s white swing coat from a few seasons ago that I whip out every January and laden with ivory scarves and gloves and cloches and live in until about March.  You can roll outta bed wearing last night's makeup, throw that shit on over your pajamas, and still look like a million bucks.

Anyway, it just so happens that the quirky and charming Bill Cunningham of the NYT Style section did a little feature on winter whites in his latest "On the Street" interactive slideshow.  If you don't keep up with his regular postings, you should.  They're weirdly specific and provincial; adorably so, really.  Watch it.

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture


Ok, can we please talk about this particular historical moment before it blows on by?  Because it's going to fly by before we know it, this being the Christmas Eve to tomorrow's political Christmas Day, and I kind of want to streeeeetch this day out to savor the buzz and bottle up some of that thrill to crack open about six months from now when all the Debbie Downers will be wondering why the Messiah-turned-Jimmy Carter hasn't solved global warming and put a chicken in every American pot.  Sweet Obama perfume, dated 19 Jan 09, smelling of lilac and toast and musk and a little hush of fresh grass.

What a lark, what a plunge; life, London, this moment in June - to steal a line from Virginia Woolf's Clarissa Dalloway.  She spoke it walking in Hyde Park on a summer morning during WWI, on her way to buy flowers for a party, and I felt it today walking home with an armful of gladiolus (which Teleflora tells me represent "strength and moral integrity," and "infatuation, with a bouquet conveying to a recipient that they pierce the giver’s heart with passion," which strikes me as quite appropriate given tomorrow's celebrant).  There is something in the air.

Today being a holiday, the bars on Polk Street last night were buzzing with revelers getting an early start to the celebrations. Head slightly foggy from red zin, I headed out this morning to run a few errands and found people soft and open and childlike.  The clerk at the bookstore ran through his usual motions checking me out, and then said with a loose grin: "Are you excited for TUESDAY??" like we were old political buddies.  (In this city, you'll find a rare safety in making political assumptions.)  Standing in Trader Joe's this morning, the shop busy with people in gym shorts taking advantage of the day off work, the inauguration was the ubiquitous conversation topic.  A little girl came up to me wearing what she called her "Obama Tiara."  She couldn't have been more than 4.  Her mother beamed. Walking home in the weirdly springlike weather, the boulangeries were bursting with people enjoying late brunches in the sun. Something feels afoot.

What are you doing to celebrate the action?  It seems like the sort of moment that needs to be shared collectively, not sitting on your couch in your pajamas eating cereal out of the box.  There'll be a jumbo-tron set up in Civic Center Plaza for the crowd gathering tomorrow morning, and though it'll be early PST, I'll be there.  This is the kind of thing you want to experience together - the gasps and the smiles and the cheers and the fist pumps.  (Pinch me.)

All that said, if you haven't yet had your fill of media coverage (given that it's all you'll find online today), read these two pieces: the first, on Obama and his love for reading (a cheesy article, but one with good intentions, and further solidifying my mad crush on the man); the second, a look at Obama's controversial choice of Rick Warren to deliver tomorrow's invocation and a sobering analysis of the ways in which conservative evangelicals might fit into his work in the coming years.

Happy Inauguration, guys.  This feels so big.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Random shit I wanted to post that has no feasible connection whatsoever to any definition of "rawness"


Old friends Molly and Tim were in town from Baltimore last week.  Meet their sweet daughter, Zoe.  She's a total 11-month-old prodigy.*

What a great excuse to discover the Children's Playground at GG Park.  Check it out next time you are playing Aunt/Uncle.  It has killer jungle gyms and the bounciest floor you've ever bounced.

*Not biased or anything

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Raw, noun: 13. unrefined sugar, oil, etc.



Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: bright
Mood: political
Music: Sara Bareilles

So it's another Saturday morning and I feel like it's been a very long time since I last baked.  A busy week, I guess, combined with the mind being elsewhere - somewhere that looks a little like D.C. on Tuesday, and the whistlestop pre-Presidential tour that started today, and Michelle Obama's birthday, and the Bush-ian exit, and a final long-awaited turn of the page into a new year and a new administration and a new start.  The excitement here in SF is palpable.

Luckily MFord took care of my bundt prep this week, given that my head has been in politics.  I came home the other day to find a great big package full of surprises, including an excellent new cookbook and a mix for a killer cinnamon streusel cake.  I am always a sucker for streusel, as evidenced by its fairly frequent appearance here, so I was glad to toy with this one a bit and make something cinnamon-y and delicious.  So I tweaked this recipe a little, added a few things here and there, and came up with this

PEACH CINNAMON STREUSEL BUNDT CAKE

Kind of a cozy wintery flavor, even though SF this January feels more like spring, with crazy 70 degree temps and lots of sunshine.  But the cake's baking and the kitchen's filling with cinnamon scent, so let's get going.

INGREDIENTS

3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup softened butter
1 Bundt cinnamon streusel mix (Williams Sonoma)
1 cinnamon sugar blend packet
Dash cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
Squeeze of ginger syrup
1 cup sliced peaches

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and flour your bundt pan.  Blend cake mix, butter, eggs, dash of cinnamon, and ginger syrup in large bowl, beating on medium for 1 minute.  Stir in raisins and sliced peaches.  Pour 3/4 of batter into prepared pan.  Stir the cinnamon sugar blend into the remaining batter, and pour into pan directly over first layer.  Gently swirl layers together with a knife to create the streusel effect.  Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until tester comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack.  Cool completely before applying cinnamon icing.

The batter was really runny, especially before I added the raisins and the peaches (glad I decided to add them), so I'm hoping this bakes decently.  It may take a long time.  We'll see.  I had the ginger syrup on hand from some cocktail experiments, so thought I'd throw in a little to see how it complements things.  [It ended up taking over an hour and a half to bake.  Weird.]

I'll make a quick cinnamon icing, which looks like this:

1 cup powdered sugar (add more to thicken)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon or vanilla
4-5 tsp milk

Just drizzle that over the finished cake.  And there you go.  Smells divine.

Happy Inauguration Weekend.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.




I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.


~ Wallace Stevens, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.


Don't know if you caught this profile in the NYT Magazine on Sunday, but you might as well take a few minutes to read it in case you're feeling in the mood for punching a wall. 

This "New Calvinist" preacher dude out of Seattle, one Mark Driscoll, is apparently doing his best to take up the backwards Christian mantle from where the Promise Keepers left it in the late 1990's.  Erghh.  The article is so rife with theological landmines, I can't even get started - not to mention the huge can of worms that is the uber-confused attempt to redefine masculinity inherent in Driscoll's theological undertakings.

I'd parse the piece line by line if I could, were I not staring down a deadline right now and wishing more than anything else that I could go for a run in the sun instead of banging out boring shit about eschatology and postmodernity, but that's not gonna happen this morning, so please just read the article and take several deep breaths as you load each new page and try to make some sense out of the convoluted combination of reactionary hetero fear and pseudo-progressive theology going on here.  Sigh.  In some ways I feel like this dude's a step forward from the infuriating evangelicals of Joel Osteen and Co. (he talks about masturbation!), and in other ways, I think, oh sweet jesus, there are masses of people in Seattle LISTENING to this shit?  And acting on it?  With tattoos?

Read it and weep.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Raw, adjective: 10. not diluted, as alcoholic spirits: raw whiskey.


Interesting little trend piece in the Chron on Friday.  Why not stretch the champagne cocktail trend across the aisle into beer?

Check out some of the more creative cocktail recipes incorporating Belgian beers, read up on how to balance hops with spirits (and good luck with the IPAs when doing so).  Love this kind of creativity.  Might have to head over to Range to, er, do some "research."

Raw, adjective: 5. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste: raw humor.

Oh god.  Please appreciate this hilarious clip from last night's SNL with NPH.  The cast members of various musicals gather to brainstorm how to save Broadway.  It's so full of musical theater in-jokes, you'll want to watch it several times.

(How great is NPH?  Wish I'd have seen the ep.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.



Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: quiet
Mood: quiet
Music: quiet

(Do you sense a theme here?)

It's January and the weekend's rolled around and the Christmas tree hit the pavement a few days ago and the pine needles are still sticking around in the carpet and along the walls to remind us the holidays once were here. And somehow that feels incomprehensible, because with January comes this turn to minimalism and white and silence and simplicity. And I dig it.

So this morning we're continuing that trend with a simple and basic recipe that I think will end up being classically delish. Cousin Derek's Christmas present - a recipe book full of great new ideas - was the source for this morning's gateau (thanks, coz!). It combines the familiar with the new, and I like its - aw, hell, let's just overuse the word - simplicity. So let's make a

VANILLA HAZELNUT POUND CAKE

Have done so much baking with walnuts and pecans and none as of yet with hazelnuts, as much as I love their flavor in coffee and chocolates. So I went searching for some yesterday - and some six grocery shops later - Trader Joe's finally hooked me up with a serious bag of large hazelnuts. Didn't realize they're so hard to find; I struck out at all the biggies (Safeway, etc.). So cheers to TJ's for being on top of it.

INGREDIENTS

1 package vanilla cake mix
1 package instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water (which I forgot - whoops)
1/2 tsp. hazelnut extract
1 cup chopped hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; grease and flour your bundt pan. In a large bowl combine cake mix, pudding, eggs, yogurt, oil, water and hazelnut extract. Beat for 2 minutes at medium speed. Fold in hazelnuts until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 min. or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before inverting and removing cake from pan.

While sitting here typing I realized I just completely forgot to add the water. Whoops. I don't think it should have a huge effect. I couldn't find hazelnut extract ANYWHERE, so I substituted Torani Hazelnut syrup (the kind you see at coffee shops) - 4 tbs., which I'm hoping will make up for the forgotten water. We'll see.

Really simple presentation: I made a quick hazelnut/vanilla glaze (combining powdered sugar, hazelnut syrup, a little water, and a little vanilla), whisked that, and drizzled it over the top. Sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts and you are good to go.

Happy January.

(Break your resolutions yet?)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Raw, adjective: 5. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste: raw humor.


The latest issue of Yoga Journal was waiting for me in the mail on my return to SF last week. I had a good chuckle when I flipped to the back cover and saw this ad (for lululemon, retailer of athletic wear and yoga clothing). The version on the mag is slightly different (not quite as creepy as the weird look on his face in this one), but just as simple. I love it. Especially lululemon's lack of hesitation to jump right into the political arena from an ostensibly apolitical one.

On the same note, have you been thrown at all by the latest big Pepsi ads? I don't know if they're designed to conjure up thoughts of Obama's circular logo, but what with the swirl and the red-white-blue color themes, they definitely do so for me. I've spent a good number of moments on the subway wondering if that "YO" ad over there is supposed to be selling me soda or inauguration tickets.

Twelve days! Go O.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.




One day, some people came to the master and asked: "How can you be so happy in a world of such impermanence, where you cannot protect your loved ones from harm, illness, and death?"  The master held up a glass and said: "Someone gave me this glass, and I really like this glass.  It holds my water admirably and it glistens in the sunlight.  I touch it and it rings! One day the wind may blow it off the shelf, or my elbow may knock it from the table.  I know this glass is already broken, so I enjoy it - incredibly."

~ Achaan Chah Subato, Theravadan meditation master

Monday, January 5, 2009

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.


Did you see this article in yesterday's NYT?

Charles Isherwood laments the imminent closure of myriad quality B'way productions, eulogizing these standouts in a time of year more known for new beginnings than small deaths.  Between limited runs and the shitty economy, there's a whole lotta closing going on right now.

How depressing.  Being back in Manhattan last week to see Shaun's [amazing! thrilling! sexy! charismatic!] show, I couldn't believe how easy it was to get sucked into the vortex that is the theater district; I felt like Alice falling into the Rabbit Hole, except I didn't ever want to climb out.  How provincial and second-run San Francisco's theater scene felt in comparison.  I realized I've been content with the minor leagues out here; what a tease it was to open the NYT Arts section and see so many fantastic productions offer themselves unto me.  Bereft at not having time to see them all, I snuggled up to the theater pages on the flight home and made do with promises to return soon.

To no avail, because Liza, Patti and crew will all be gone by the time I head east again.  Isherwood's article doesn't offer anything particularly revelatory, but it's a nice paean to the ebb and flow of the live theater, the ways in which the magic that comes of an original production remains something that can't be bottled or captured.  Because we all know revivals just aren't the same - and who doesn't love being able to say, "Weeeellll, I saw the original cast back in the day, and blah blah blah, so there, ha."

Read the article.  Take the train into the City to catch what you can.  I'd be at Gypsy tonight, and Liza the next, and All My Sons the next, if I could...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture


I've got resolutions on the brain.

It's that time of year, of course.  Being the recovering Type-A that I am, naturally I have approximately 27 of my own.  I usually end up with a long 6-hour plane ride at the end of December, a perfectly unplugged few hours of [hungover] quiet in which to knock out the annual list.

And this year was no exception.  Four days in, I'm cocky as hell about having rocked the major ones, which are, in no particular order:

1) practice yoga 2 hrs/day every day this year
2) knock out a book a week (so, 52 by the end of the year)
3) cut out caffeine after 4pm
4) think less, do more

You've gotta be specific, you know?  My favorite game of late has been to ask everyone I interact with if/what their resolutions are this year.  And I'll tell you, probably 80% of them tell me, in nicer words: fuck resolutions.  People don't give a shit.  They're sick of feeling guilty when they break them 2 weeks in.  They're the same resolutions every year (lose weight, stop smoking, cut out the crack habit, be nicer to grandma).

It's always been funny to watch the whole resolution thing unfold from behind my perch at the bar.  People come in - the same ones who usually swim in gin martini after gin martini, slinking home at the end of the night - and order iced teas.  They urge me to keep them accountable.  And then within the week's end they're back on the sauce.  

It's too hard, too drastic.  You've gotta start small.  Big sweeping changes are destined to get you down.  But don't let their imposing nature keep you from scratching out a list yourselves.  There's something to taking a few minutes to resolve to live differently, even if it's in the minutest way.

Yoga Journal had an excellent newsletter last week focusing just on this often-misguided and demoralizing process of analyzing your life and making resolutions for the new year.  I thought about highlighting just one of the featured articles, but they were all so good, particularly as complements to one another, that I'll just give you the link here and tell you to read all three.  I like their emphasis on setting intentions vs. setting self-abusive prohibitions, as well as the way Phillip Moffitt draws on the circularity of the seasons in lifting up the naturality of life changes.  Read the article on the dharma of life changes and ask yourself what your dharma (your path, your way) might look like in the months to come.

And now I've got a yoga class to make.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.



Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: chilly (er, it's January)
Mood: tired
Music: Ben Harper

And here we are. Brief hiatus in the last few weeks to make way for traveling and holidays and moonshine. It felt a little funny to wake up this morning and dig out the old baking tools after being away for awhile.

What began last summer as an ironic bizarro little arts-and-crafts project of a sort has officially taken on a life of its own, at least according to the spoils of this Christmas season. You'd have thunk it was bundt-themed, the way that so many of the people in my life graced me with baking materials of the sort you didn't even know existed. Let's just say I am good to go on creative new recipes, pans and mixes for a few weeks, at least. Thanks to all you sweeties who so thoughtfully shopped on behalf of the bundts. You've ensured that there will be nerdy baked goods to come.

Jay and Sylvia surprised me with a big bag of goodies before they left for the French Riviera (poor things), and this morning I'm making one of their recipes to celebrate their return. It's fresh and light and fruity, a nice alternative to the heavy cakes we've been scarfing down in the holiday season. It should suffice as a decent "cheat" for all of yous who are committed ("were" committed?) to some type of healthy New Year's resolution. So let's make a

MEYER LEMON AND BLACKBERRY POUND CAKE

Mmm, yeah. Those of you who know me outside the one dimension that is this silly blog know that that name has a charming little affinity of its own. I've been meaning to bake with these local lemons for some time, and after having pleasant success with raspberries in the last month, decided to experiment with a few blackberries for aesthetics and flavor.

I took the Williams-Sonoma recipe and tweaked it a bit, adding a few of my own ingredients. This is what we ended up with.

INGREDIENTS

1 package Wms-Sonoma Meyer Lemon Pound Cake mix
2 small packages instant pudding (I used one vanilla, one cheesecake flavor)
1 stick (8 tbs) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup lemon yogurt
3 eggs
1/2 cup water
1 teas. vanilla
10 oz. fresh or frozen organic blackberries

And that's it. Grease and flour your bundt pan; preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Blend the dry ingredients first and then fold in the wet; beat well for 2 or 3 minutes. Thaw your blackberries, if frozen, and stir in to batter gently, taking care not to break up the berries. Pour into pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, removing from the oven when the toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack and then invert and cool fully before icing.

Jay and Sylvia also gave me a great Meyer Lemon fondant glaze, which I thought I'd use to top the cake, in keeping with trying to go for a lighter feel this week. It's easy; just add water to the mix, whisk and drizzle on top of the cake. I saved back a few fresh blackberries, adding those in a pile in the center to finish.

Not a bad start to 2009. Enjoy for breakfast or dessert or anything in between.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air


Julio and I christened the new year yesterday with a trip to the symphony.  And if the rest of 2009 lives up to its first day, this will be a delicious one indeed.

You can usually count on the SFS to trot out a few of the bigger Broadway names for a New Year's Eve Gala followed by a New Year's Day performance (think Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, etc.).  And this year they signed up the husband-wife dream team of Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley.  These two are right up there with Taye Diggs and Idina Menzel scrapping it out as B'way's top power couple.  The program is usually pretty pop-lite, nothing super heavy, tons of recognizable cabaret tunes and symphonic pops to ring in the new year.  You've gotta feel for the performers, who after belting it out NYE have to get up and clear out the phlegm to do it again the next day.  Can't be easy; I imagine there's a fair amount of grumbling involved.

But you wouldn't have known it from the music showcased.  Within approximately the first 10 bars of the symphony's overture to Gershwin's Girl Crazy, I had tossed out all vague career girl aspirations in favor of knocking out that long-abandoned musical theater degree, marrying a baritone and popping out a passel of little Bernstein-wailing Von Trapp family singers (although supplanting the lederhosen with sequins and lame, methinks).  Swoon.  It was hard to sit still.

Mazzie and Danieley are such seasoned performers that it's easy to see them pop in and out of stage mode.  We had some sweet seats in the second row, center orchestra, which meant that we could see them off-stage as they prepared to come on, and to be honest, I much preferred those few little un-self-conscious glimpses to the well-oiled (but stellar, naturally) performers who cranked out Kander tune after Styne tune after Flaherty tune.  Two pro's in action, seriously.  (And did I mention that they're hot, too?  Mazzie's a curvaceous stunner with the most impossibly adorable ski-jump nose you've ever seen without gagging, and Danieley's unfortunate goatee was quickly atoned for by his loose curls and dreamy rendition of Younger Than Springtime).

Since Mazzie and Danieley are unfortunately already spoken for, while Julio was off securing cocktails at intermission, I swiftly applied some red lipstick and slipped my number to the timpanist, the principal cellist, and the entire section of string basses.  [The matronly, vaguely gestational vibe that emanates from women playing low strings somehow doesn't translate to the men in the same section; their awkward straddle still manages to come off as suavely masculine, more proof, once again, that Dudes Have It Better].  While I wait to hear from my future orchestral baby daddies, I'll crank up Mazzie and Danieley's CD, Opposite You, and imagine myself singing in the shower with that dreamy tenor filling in the harmonies.

Opposite You (Amazon.com)