Friday, May 29, 2009

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

Bundt Cake Saturday ... on Friday!

Morning: fresh
Mood: pleased
Music: Dario Marianelli's "Atonement"

And here we are again. I thought I'd throw this puppy up a little early since you've been subject to some major bundt slackage of late. Tomorrow marks another in my series of yoga workshops, so I'm baking early again and will have the cake all set for our lunchtime potluck following the morning asana. I've got about 10 minutes until it's ready to come out of the oven, so let's see if we can't knock a little post out before it finishes.

This recipe is one I'd experimented with several weeks ago on the heels of Ben's Birthday Tower of Bundts. It crashed and burned, to put it gently. Once again I made the overeager mistake of trying to add too much to what would otherwise be a classically simple recipe. After throwing that first version straight into the kitchen trash bin, I tweaked a few things and gave it a second shot this morning. I think we'll be much happier with the results this time around.

We haven't had a chocolate cake in a few weeks, and I've been increasingly curious about the blend of chocolate and fruit flavors of late. Pomegranate has been relatively "hot" for some time now, and I was curious to see how fresh Pom juice might work in a recipe. So, I threw together a few basics and ended up with this delicious-smelling


Simple, really. Pretty, too. And I think it should come out quite nicely. You shouldn't have a hard time rounding up the basic ingredients.


1 chocolate cake mix
1 package instant chocolate fudge pudding
4 eggs
1 6-oz container of Rachel's Pomegranate Acai yogurt
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup Pom juice
1/2 teas. vanilla extract.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; grease and flour your bundt pan. Mix together cake mix, pudding, eggs, yogurt, oil, juice and vanilla. Beat well for 3-4 minutes until smooth. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven, let cool in pan for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Easy, no? And how 'bout that "Rachel's" Pomegranate Acai yogurt, eh? Must be meant to be. If you can't find a variation on Rachel's yogurt, you can always substitute a basic chocolate yogurt instead. Last time I added blueberries, thinking I'd make a Chocolate Pomegranate-Blueberry cake; let's just say that I got too excited about the berries and added too many, resulting in a gooey, gushy off-balance cake that fell apart in my hands. Lesson being: keep it simple, stupid.

Frosting-wise, this one's easy: just take your basic chocolate frosting and stir in fresh Pom juice until it reaches a good drizzling consistency. (You might want to heat it a bit on the stovetop or in the microwave in the process). Drizzle this over your cooled cake, and then go to town on the decorating.

I vacillated between adding some bright ruby-colored flowers that were dying on the coffee table, fresh raspberries or some rich velvety dried petals I had saved back in my kitchen. I ended up with the latter petals, and added a few switches of bear grass, as well. Perfect.

(Did I mention that I made two of these today? To the left is the heart-shaped version I'll take along to share with my co-workers and regulars tomorrow night; at right is the spiral version - not so unlike a spinning chakra or a yogic mandala symbol - to our final yoga philosophy potluck tomorrow noon.)

Cheers. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

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

Slightly crazy about GoRaw's solid selection of live granola bars these days. Do you know them? The Live Pumpkin Seed bar in particular has quickly become a staple of my 4 o'clock hour: it's so loaded with protein, nutrients and fiber that it just powers me through the evening.

Check out these simple but so-nourishing ingredients:
  • Sprouted Organic Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sprouted Organic Flax Seeds
  • Organic Dates
  • Raw Organic Agave Nectar
  • Celtic Sea Salt
That's it. No extra crap. And 14 grams of protein and under 300 cal. in each one. You really should be eating pumpkin seeds every day - they're mad-good for you, full of minerals, energy-boosting, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and yes, even proven to be libido-boosting. (Um. I will vouch.)

Order some online if you can't find them at your local health-food store. And read up on the vast benefits of pumpkin seeds over at World's Healthiest Foods.

GoRaw website
World's Healthiest Foods: Pumpkin Seeds

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

Really interesting article over at the WSJ highlighting the ways in which the Obamas are shaking up the art on the White House walls. Out with the dated frontier landscapes; in with the hot modern artists: Diebenkorn, Ruscha (his 1983 piece pictured at left), and Johns, just to name a few favorites that made my eyebrows raise.

Still pinching myself. Can these cultured and arts-conscious people possibly be in the White House? Can Obama possibly have earmarked $50 million in the stimulus package for the National Endowment for the Arts? I'm dreaming.

Read the article for an illuminating peek into the politics of choosing White House art. I had no idea it was such a complicated process: committees and approval and blah blah blah. All for a little inspirational Ruscha on the walls.*

Changing the Art on the White House Walls (WSJ)

*(Did you know he's Nebraska-born? Me neither.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

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

Bundt Cake Saturday!  But Monday instead!

Morning: clearing
Mood: beat
Music: the cars on the street outside the bay window

Wow, good morning.  What a weekend.  I shook a lot of martinis for a lot of very content holiday weekend-ing people.  (And am reminded how much I love my job...and my sore muscles...and my resulting full social calendar...but that's another story.)

Basketball playoffs and Carnaval celebrations in the Mission and Spamalot opening downtown, oh my.  So much going on right now.  I dig this time of year, here on the precipice of summer.  The fog has reliably rolled in these past several days, blanketing the City in cold and wind, and I've been rocking the long sleeves/jeans/sweater/coat combo, which can only mean one thing: June is afoot.

Again with the delay this weekend; sorry.  It's not like you're reading this anyway; you're staring into a smoky grill poking hot dogs on skewers wearing cutoffs and a halter top in 80 degree sun right now, not sitting in front of your computer.  Saturday was busy with brunch and people and things going on, and yesterday likewise, so here you go with your [exhausted and slightly hung-over] bundt cake edition.

This week I wanted something summery and citrusy, preferably alcoholic in honor of all the imbibing going down over the weekend, and luckily this recipe fell right into my lap on Thursday when Molly offered it to me out of the pages of the Examiner.  It's easy, quick, and alcoholic: what more could a girl want out of Memorial Day weekend?  So squeeze up some fresh OJ, pour in a handle of vodka, and let's make a


Grand Marnier - a classic French orange-infused liqueur, if you're not familiar with it - is great for baking, especially with chocolate.  We had a bottle on hand in our ever-expanding liquor cabinet, so I pulled that out and went to town.  The result was pleasingly citrusy and moist.


1 yellow cake mix
1 small box vanilla pudding
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup nonfat orange yogurt (I used apricot-mango)
I teas. grated orange rind
3 eggs
1/4 cup Grand Marnier

Preheat oven to 350; grease and flour your bundt pan.  In a mixing bowl, combine cake mix, pudding, orange juice oil, yogurt, orange rind, eggs, and orange liqueur.  Mix until blended.  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until center of cake bounces back when touched.  Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes; invert to wire rack and cool completely.

If you don't have Grand Marnier, feel free to substitute Cointreau or Triple Sec instead.  I baked this Friday afternoon and let it sit overnight; came home from brunch Saturday and was planning to use the orange marmalade/Grand Marnier glaze outlined in the original recipe.  Once I made it, though, it was disgusting - lumpy and gross - so I threw it out, did some quick Googling and came up with a homemade Grand Marnier buttercream frosting instead.  It was ever-so-much better.

Pretty simple recipe; just trust your own judgment to mix until the right consistency: 

1/2 cup of unsalted butter, melted 
2 cups or so of confectioner's sugar
Splash of Grand Marnier
Splash of orange juice

Just beat that with an electric mixer, adding OJ and liqueur as necessary, until it's thin enough to drizzle.  Then pour over the finished cake.  The light and fluffy glaze has just enough of a hint of Grand Marnier to really give it some spark.  You may want to poke a few holes in the cake with a fork as well to let it soak into the bundt itself.

I had some fresh raspberries in the fridge, so I sprinkled them over the cake, and grated some remaining orange zest on top, as well.  Finally, I added a few shoots of bear grass and zinnia leaves from the arrangement on the coffee table.  And that was it.

Great new recipe.  Consider it for your next summer function.  Cheers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

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


Thanks to Joseph for sending this one along.  So totally true - that is a rare kind of love, indeed.  Talk about exchanging bodily fluids!!

(And on another note, the website this comes from is seriously hilarious.  Check it out.)

Raw, Idiom: b. Informal. in the nude; naked: sunbathing in the raw

Salon had a great interview with Jessica Valenti the other day, and it's full of fiery potential conversations.  Valenti's got a new book out called The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession With Virginity is Hurting Young Women, and it sounds pretty damn fascinating.

In a cultural-historical moment when Bristol Palin is suddenly the face of abstinence-only sex ed and those bizarro purity ball things are taking place across the Bible Belt, it seems only appropriate to be publishing this book.  Just yesterday I saw a clip from the Tyra Banks Show (erghh, I know, don't ask) in which Tyra interviews a super-"Christian" couple who stayed celibate until marriage and then had so many issues about fear of sex that two years later they still haven't had sex.  HELLO, can you say: time to talk about culture and sexuality?!?  Valenti's book couldn't have come at a better time.

Tracy Clark-Flory's interview with Valenti centers on the idea of an American "virginity fetish," a phenomenon which is of course tied up in all kinds of religious and socio-political crap.  Read the exchange; it's so rich with potential conversations that I found it kind of overwhelming.  It'll probably push at least a few of your own buttons, wherever you stand on all of this.  

Here's a killer blurb, from when Clark-Flory brings up the case of the 22-year-old who's auctioning off her virginity to the highest bidder:
What do you think about the young woman who auctioned off her virginity?

I don't know why we're so surprised by it. This is going to sound terrible, but that's essentially the same thing the abstinence movement is saying: “Hold off until you can auction off your virginity to the person with the biggest ring.” It's really the same thing, only done in a more explicit and economically honest way. I think it's really interesting whom we decide to call whores. [Natalie Dylan] is a whore because she's being really upfront and honest about it. But you would never think to call a woman who is getting married [for financial security] a whore.
Ouch!  But - the double standard - so true.  Valenti hits on the commodification inherent here.  And I really love her for having the balls (ovaries?) to state it the way that she does.  The rest of the interview engages other interesting questions of "purity" and argues that a definition of "virginity" itself doesn't even exist; it's just one of the many social constructs surrounding sexuality that we so often incorrectly take as truth.

Read the interview, get a little fired up, check out the book itself.  Great conversation fodder.

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

The NYT featured an article about the caretaking lifestyle over the weekend.  If you've got a little flexibility, an open mind and a willingness to get your hands dirty, it's really something to look into.

The article mentions a few of the sweeter deals: former corporate types who quit their jobs to caretake enormous estates and now spend their time diving in coral reefs, chopping down trees and writing novels; that sort of thing.  But on a smaller scale, too, the caretaking option is really viable for most anyone sans small children or an oppressive mortgage.

I first learned about The Caretaker Gazette (which is featured in the article as a means of finding gigs) as a college student, and the connections I found after subscribing to this simple newsletter fueled a year of traipsing around Europe, living with warm and generous people, and having all kinds of adventures that I otherwise wouldn't have known about.  The Gazette offers not only caretaking positions, but house-swaps; you can trade your SF flat for an apartment in Paris for a few weeks if you'd like; it's a pretty great little resource if you'd rather live like a local in a new city than feel like a traveler staying in hotels and eating in diners.

Read the NYT article; check out the website itself for details on subscribing.  And then watch the world open up to you.

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

You don't have to feel guilty for drinking coffee anymore!!  

In fact, your liver might even thank you.

(Thank YOU, LA Times.)

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

Following last night's reading, naturally I stuck around and dropped too much money in the hallowed ground that is Books, Inc.  There really is nothing like a good indie bookstore.  (Ahh, sanctuary...)

One of my killer finds was this series of children's books by Susan Goldman Rubin.  Rubin combines two of my favorite things - modern art and rhythmic writing - to create a series of vibrant and vital children's books that can be used to introduce babies and toddlers to the wide world of modern art.  Naturally I picked up about 16 copies for all the babies in my life.  

The Jacob Lawrence book, which uses a rat-a-tat rhythm alongside 11 of Lawrence's paintings to capture the energy of city life, is pictured at left.  Rubin also features titles using the artwork of Magritte, Warhol, Thiebaud and Matisse.  I'm in love.

Buy a few for the future artists in your life. 

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

Last night I went to an author reading down the hill at Books, Inc., a great local indie bookstore.  Mark Kurlansky was reading from his newest book, Food of a Younger Land, which hits on all of those hot foodie topics: social history, the politics of food, regionalism, seasonality, the onslaught of fast food culture, etc.

Here's a blurb from the Publisher's Note:
Award-winning New York Times-bestselling author Mark Kurlansky takes us back to the food and eating habits of a younger America: Before the national highway system brought the country closer together; before chain restaurants imposed uniformity and low quality; and before the Frigidaire meant frozen food in mass quantities, the nation's food was seasonal, regional, and traditional. It helped form the distinct character, attitudes, and customs of those who ate it.

In the 1930s, with the country gripped by the Great Depression and millions of Americans struggling to get by, FDR created the Federal Writers' Project under the New Deal as a make-work program for artists and authors. A number of writers, including Zora Neale Hurston, Eudora Welty, and Nelson Algren, were dispatched all across America to chronicle the eating habits, traditions, and struggles of local people. The project, called 'America Eats,' was abandoned in the early 1940s because of the World War and never completed.
Kurlansky spent a lot of dusty hours in the Library of Congress digging into the many abandoned writings that had been commissioned for the 'America Eats' Writers' Project.  His work here gathers his gleanings from those lost pieces.  His spiel was an interesting one - including a laughing mention of some poem or other about "Nebraskans and Their Weiners."  (?!)  I imagine the book contains even more, uh, "questionable" foodie poetry.

Pick it up.

Monday, May 18, 2009

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

Bundt Cake Saturday - er, Monday!

Morning: foggy
Mood: content
Music: Kings of Leon

Ok, so we're a little late this weekend.  You'll forgive me for that when you understand that in the last two days we here in SF enjoyed our few 80+ degree doses of sunshine for the next few months.  The fog reliably rolled in this morning and put an end to that, which means catching up on all the indoor shit that I couldn't be bothered to do over the weekend.

After yesterday, I smell like beach, my Sunday Chron is faded and crusty with dried salt water, and I'm still shaking sand out of my shoes.  But even better, the sunburn damage is minimal.  (It only took 30 years, but I finally figured out how to apply sunblock, and liberally.  Good job, Rach.)

Our boy Benny turned 30 over the weekend, and in preparation I spent Friday morning covered in espresso powder and chocolate cake.  The result was particularly pleasing.  Please find at left Ben's Birthday Tower of Bundts.

You'll recognize the recipe from last summer; I tweaked the old Devil's Food Espresso cake, which turned out some 35 mini-bundts (using Baby Rach's mini-bundt pan), and made a chocolate hazelnut coffee icing.  For the frosting, use your basic chocolate recipe, but add 1/4 cup strongly-brewed coffee, 2 teaspoons espresso powder, and 2 T Torani hazelnut syrup.  Heat until fairly liquified, and then drizzle over the cooled cakes.

I toasted 1 cup or so of hazelnuts, candied them with some of the Torani syrup, and then chopped them up after they'd cooled; then I just sprinkled them over the hardening frosting, and they were set.

We had a few sweet little tulips around the house, so I plucked the petals, added a few leaves, and finished off the presentation in the cupcake tower with a few of those flowers.  I was so pleased with how Ben's cakes turned out.  People were really lovely about them, too.  You can look forward to seeing more of the cupcake tower in the months to come.

Happy Monday.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Raw, adjective: 4. painfully open, as a sore or wound.

Did you catch this article in today's NYT?  The one about "plus-size only" yoga classes?

I think it's great.  The first half of the piece basically lays out the reasoning and the need for this kind of class: the fact that walking into a roomful of 90-pound gymnast types is often alienating and intimidating for anyone even remotely heavier or less-flexible than they.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard that excuse from friends - many of whom are athletes in their own right - for why they don't want to try a yoga class: they feel self-conscious, awkward, not flexible enough, not fit enough, not tiny enough, shy.

It's a chicken-and-egg kind of thing.  You don't wait till you're flexible or fit to go; the yoga itself MAKES you flexible and fit, in the going.  As the second half of the article points out, ideally ALL yoga classes should be full of all body types and welcoming to whatever kinds of modifications are necessary.  And there are some teachers who are great with this; over the years I've seen one-armed fellow students rocking Half-Moon with the rest of us, and 83-year-old grandmas with brain tumors holding onto the windowsill in Standing Bow, and all varieties of bodies using towels and blocks to make their bodies stretch into positions they otherwise wouldn't.  And I've been that person in the back row myself; when I sprained my ankle two years ago, I spent two weeks of classes on my ass, modifying the standing postures as I sat on my mat, hungry for at least a taste of the yoga that I wasn't yet healed enough to do.  So there's room for that.  And a taste is better than nothing, right?

But at the same time, as this article argues, there really is something to the idea of creating a safe space for people who feel alienated by the overwhelmingly stereotypical yoga aesthetic.  Even if it's just a matter of providing that supportive introductory sanctuary until the student feels more comfortable walking into a mainstream class at an all-types studio.  If it's a matter of doing the yoga or not doing it, I say: do it.  Whatever it takes.  Be there.  The least-flexible or the most uncomfortable in their bodies are the ones who need and deserve the opening and healing experiences of yoga the most, anyway, right?  And we all stand to benefit from a little bending and stretching, whether that means touching your toes or not.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

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

In case you've missed it, Yoga Journal has been steadily adding new webisodes of the "Inappropriate Yoga Guy" series over the last few months.  Check out their website here for the trailer and 5 short episodes, most of which were filmed in YJ's offices down the street on Sac'to and Sansome, in the Financial District.

Some are more funny than others; none of them lives up to the first Ogden video, I'll admit, but they're cute nonetheless, and it's interesting to see what the writers do with Ogden's blue-and-yellow Spandex-clad buffoon, strumming a ukulele in the corner office overlooking the streets of SF.

Take a few minutes; have a good laugh or three; promise you'll never be that un-self-aware.  And then go eat some goji berries, please.

Monday, May 11, 2009

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

Bill Cunningham's latest NYT "On the Street" audio slide show offers yet another sweet edition of his folksy photography and commentary.  Check it out for some of the most over-the-top spring hats this side of the Kentucky Derby, trotted out for a recent Central Park fundraiser.  I want them all - especially the rakishly-angled ones, and the lopsided ones pulled low and loaded with buds.

I have to disagree with Billy C.'s conclusion that cardigans are the new cropped jacket, however.  Whether Michelle Obama rocks them to meet the Queen or not, they'll never be more than a suburban throwback to me.  Twinsets be damned; I'll take a structured, double-breasted little 1960s riding jacket over a bland pastel cardigan any day.  Mr. Rogers is the only one who could pull off a cardigan without looking like a sexless suburban housewife.  And there are so many easy alternatives with more panache: a shawl, a poncho, a pashmina, a gauzy wrap, even a little shrug.  Just no cardigans, please.  

Unless you're going for the Carol Brady vibe, in which case, don't forget the pearls.  Or the gay husband.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

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

Not gonna lie; the obligatory overearnest oozing of canned filial love out of the cultural pores every Mother's Day kind of makes me twitchy.  It's that whole institutionalized-emotional-outpouring-packaged-by-Hallmark-for-your-convenience thing, you know.

Luckily, Salon's Heather Havrilesky - a mom in her own right - feels the same way.  She's got a great send-up of all the syrupy sentiments flooding the interwebs today.  Read her snarky little piece and let it exfoliate away all the sugary nothings stuck to your skin on this Sunday when the restaurants are full of amateur diners and the flower shops all sold out of cheap carnations before noon.

Quick blurb from her ode to the single childless sadsacks who are - sigh - gulping down tequila in hot pants today instead of receiving a crayon-crafted masterpiece from a sweet but sticky little tot:
It makes me feel so incredibly sad, this Mother's Day, to think that not only won't these unhappy singles receive a mass-produced greeting card (which I now recognize is a deeply significant expression of heartfelt emotion), but they might never know the real meaning of love, which involves doing six loads of laundry in a single day. My heart breaks to think they might never experience the indescribable joy and immense philosophical insights that arise from wiping the same little butts over and over again!
Hee hee.  Read it.  You'll smirk.  And then, for realz, go hug your mom or mother figure or Mother Earth or motherboard.

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

Did you see Obama's remarks at last night's White House Correspondents' Association dinner?

Sometimes I think we're all just still getting used to the idea of having a POTUS who's competent and resoundingly well-received.  And then I see things like this, and am even moreso knocked over by the fact that he's also suave and self-mocking.  With a hot wife.  (Oh, and capable of being hilarious.  That Rahm crack about halfway through...)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

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

Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: not anymore
Mood: thoughtful
Music: Jimmy Eat World

Ohhhhhh, I'm really happy with how this one turned out.

After being stuck in a bit of a baking rut there for awhile, last week's Betty Crocker extravaganza really re-inspired me.  I'm feeling pretty en fuego right now, totally fueled up on fresh flowers and seasonal fruit and delicious extracts and new flavors.  It's nice to feel so creative again.  I think it has something to do with spring, too.  May rocks my world.  Blossoms everywhere.  And peonies in abundance.  Hello, world.

So this morning I crafted a new recipe, inspired by a pretty little cherry-pear tart that our girl Jilly brought in last week from La Boulange.  The cherries gave such a zing! of a flavor, I had to find way to use a big bag of bings in bundt form.  And I think this simple recipe is just the ticket.

[That's Bob Fosse above, of course; the first thing I think of when I hear "cherries" is his classic choreography to "Life is Just A Bowl of Cherries," so it only seems fitting to have him here.  For the record, there's a helluva lot of godawful cherry art out there.  Beware the Google image search for "life bowl cherries."  It'll make you throw up a little in your mouth.  Aprons and Mary Englebreit and kitschy paintings, oh my.]

So after loading up on a great bag of cherries and a few ripe pears, I modified a classic, my true-blue cream cheese recipe that has worked so well in so many forms, and came up with this vibrant 


Delicious-sounding, no?  I thought so.


1 package yellow cake mix
2 small packages cheesecake pudding
1/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup fresh pears, finely chopped
1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and chopped
Handful of slivered almonds
Cream cheese frosting (make your own or buy some, lazy!)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan. In a large bowl, stir together cake mix, pudding and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in eggs, cream cheese, oil and almond extract. Beat on low speed until blended. Scrape bowl, and beat 4 minutes on medium speed. Stir in pears and cherries. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Easy enough, right?  The best part was pitting the cherries.  Talk about meditative.  Chop one, eat one; chop one, eat one.  (Heh.  I'd forgotten how delicious fresh cherries are.)  Make sure not to go overboard with the fruit, though; it's easy to want to dump in as much as possible, but if you add more than the called-for 2 cups, your cake will be mushy and crumbly.  (Not that I know from experience or anything.  It only took me about six overeager months to learn that important lesson.)

I turned the finished cake out on the wire rack and ran to yoga while it cooled.  A few sweaty hours later, I mixed up a quick cream cheese frosting, adding 1 teaspoon of almond extract to make it match the cake flavor.  I'm pretty in love with almond these days; the frosting smelled divine.  Heat that up a bit to soften it a little, and then drizzle it on top of the cake.  (Throw your slivered almonds into the oven at 350 for about 5 minutes to toast them while you do this.)

Now, the best part: making it pretty.  Sprinkle a handful of the toasted slivered almonds on top.  Add a few fresh cherries here and there for nice splashes of vibrant red.  Finally, I have some fresh spring stock flowers on my kitchen countertop right now, so I pulled off a few leaves and added them for a touch of green.  

And there's your Cherry-Pear Almond bundt.  Not gonna lie - I'm crazy about it.


Friday, May 8, 2009

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

The SFMoMA's brand-new Rooftop Garden opens this weekend!

Come with me tomorrow afternoon for a special Member Preview, or bring Mom on Sunday when the garden opens to the public.  Starting on Tuesday, Blue Bottle coffee will be pouring mugs in the sunshine, so you can bring your latest good read, grab a cup of joe and while away the hours amongst the sculptures overlooking the City.

See you there.  I can't wait.

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

I woke up this morning and scrambled groggy-eyed to my laptop so that I could check in and see how my dear ones' early-early-early morning C-section had gone over in Eastern Standard Time.  And how happy I was to meet the little girl who's the newest favorite baby on my ever-growing list of favorite babies.  (Welcome, Josephine!  We're so happy you're here.)

Happier, then, was I to see that she'll go into the world bearing such a classic and original name.  (Not that I ever doubted you, Hearns).  But there are just so many, erghh, ugly ones out there right now.  Missteps.  Sweet naive young parents who think they're coming up with the world's most original name when in fact every small child you meet in a stroller on the street is bearing some variation of that name.  (Kaden?  Jaden?  Really?)  

Witness: Madison.  Or Madeleine.  The latter especially is an exceptionally lovely name that would've been so original a decade or so ago, but has since been overtaken by misguidedly "creative" alternative spellings and will soon be the "Jennifer" of the post-millennial generation.

And I swear: if I meet one more "Ava" here in SF - and have to pretend I haven't met 64 before her, all wearing the same infant onesies - I'll gag.  What a beautiful name.  What a creative idea.  Ten years ago.  And now: mainstream hell.  Just like "Emma."  Which, according to the SSA baby name list (conveniently released today), rides atop the list of names for 2008.  I'm sorry, but that name hit its cultural apex when Ross and Rachel on "Friends" named their spawn Emma.  In 2002.  At that point, saturation.  No mas.  That's it.  You really wanna name your kid after some washed-up sitcom seven years past its prime?

Read the list.  Pray that yer kid's name isn't on it.  The boys' names tend to be more unchanging; lots of old-school Biblical names and whatnot, interesting when you look at the sociology of baby names, which has long shown that boys' names tend to be more classic and girls', more trendy.  Note that "Isabella" is #2.  Nod your head and recall all the babies you've met in the last year whose well-meaning parents thought they were being super-creative by naming their tots "Isabella" and calling her "Bella."  Be glad you didn't.

And be glad the wide-eyed babies in your life* are called sweet things like "Zoe" and "Henry" and "Mia" and - the newest! - "Josephine."**

* This is also an excellent excuse for me to post a gratuitous photo of my adorable and impeccably-named goddaughter, Rachel D.  Don't you just wanna squish those cheeks?

** Love it, Team Hearn.  Congrats.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

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

I was just minding my own business yesterday at Whole Paycheck, mingling with the snap peas and the hippie boys, when look what I found:

Ostrich Eggs!!

I laughed out loud.  These things are as big as my head - and heavier.  It took two hands to pick one up.  The sign says (well, other than advertising the low, low price of $29.99 EACH) that they're from some ostrich farm in Tehachapi.  You're supposed to "hit lightly with a hammer or metal garlic press" (!!) to open and "cook like a regular egg - scramble or hard boil (2 hours)."  Two hours!  My god.

Brunch at my house, folks.  Come on over.  Scrambled ostrich eggs for everybody.  Hee.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

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

I really love this latest Salon interview with writer Lenore Skenazy, who's penned an audacious new book arguing that in spite of news reports and fearmongering, children today aren't any less safe than they were 30 years ago, and as a result, we should back off and let them run more freely than the contemporary culture of fear would normally encourage.

Free Range Kids strikes me as such a welcome alternative to the normalization of "helicopter parenting" that seems to be increasingly ubiquitous.  Maybe it's a result of growing up in a relatively idyllic Great Plains college town where we walked to school at 6 or 8 and spent hours on rickety bikes pedaling from park to park, but this growing culture of parenting fear - assigning cell phones and curfews and GPS trackers and whatnot - makes me shudder inside.  That freedom to roam until dusk brought the locusts and the fireflies out was the best part of being a kid.

The whole interview is worth a read for Skenazy's refreshingly down-to-earth opinions, but I especially appreciate what she has to say at the very end:
...we've started to think of our kids as the most vulnerable, the most endangered, the least competent, the most, uh, dumb generation in history that needs the most supervision the most hours of the day, literally, than anybody until now.

And when you get a little perspective, you can take these little baby steps and say: "OK, maybe I can let my 9-year-old trick-or-treat [by himself]. After all, at this age if he were living in the Philippines, he'd be running his own vegetable stand, or he'd be riding on the back of a moped with three other kids and a chicken trying to go get dinner for mom."

I also think about what we do give our kids when we give them the chance to do something themselves: to get themselves out of boredom, to get themselves to school, to become competent and to become worldly, and actually be safer in the long run.
This is so absolutely true.  I think her emphasis on competence and worldliness is so key; the most liberating gifts my parents ever gave me were tied to the fact that, well, they left me alone to run out into the world and make a few mistakes.  And the result of that kind of freedom to run is a fearlessness about taking on new situations, a self-sufficience that eliminates any daunting quality of moving solo to a new country or continent or even just across town.  I have great disregard for the kind of helicopter parenting that refuses to let this so-important independence bloom.

On another note, I was also glad to see Skenazy mention the increase in fear-based paraphernalia out there that pressures parents into buying useless crap (e.g. kneepads and helmets for toddlers!) and guilts them into feeling like they're not "good enough" or "loving enough" if they don't.  Good parenting isn't about being well-stocked with the latest consumer contraptions.  It's about knowing when to tighten and when to loosen the reins.  And a rejection of the cultural mandate to parent based on fear/worry is a fundamental part of that.

So chill out, my dears.  Yer kids will be just fine.  And they'll thank you for it someday when they're not afraid to pick up and move to Tahiti.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air: a raw, foggy day at the beach.

"Bundts on Board!"

You didn't get any bundt action last Saturday because I was busy cake-wrangling my way down to Santa Cruz.  After padding into the kitchen in my stocking feet right around daylight, I turned on the coffee pot, preheated the oven and emerged some 9 hours or so later sporting frosting in my hair, red food coloring under my fingernails, and a helluva lot of pastel teacakes.

Some of my peers are very busy right now buckling newborns and infants into child safety seats.  I buckle bundts.  Evidence at left.  The winding roads on the way to SC were no match for the solid gold protection of those backseat belts.  An hour and a half into the drive, the birthday bundts emerged unscathed, no worse for wear, in spite of the rain and the bumpy highways.

None of the recipes below are new to you; I've detailed them all here before, so you can find them in the archives if you want specifics.  However, bearing a new teacake pan, lots of cream cheese frosting and a few tiny bottles of liqueur, I switched some things up and discovered a few interesting new twists on some of my most well-received recipes.  Pics and info below.

Lemon cheesecake teacakes with a lemon cream cheese frosting and an almond cream cheese drizzle.  Garnished with sliced strawberries, mint, and fresh blueberries.

Variation on the Chocolate Raspberry Fudge Red Velvet recipe I've featured here before.  I added more chambord this time, and used a vanilla buttercream frosting, with fresh raspberries and lilac leaves to garnish.  The fresh flowers in the middle are called "stock."  They're one of my favorites - very fragrant - but tend to wilt quickly and leave an especially pungent smell.  Be careful using them to decorate unless you have a fairly short window of time before cutting the cake.

These are coconut cream baby bundts.  (Thanks to the Durbanos and Baby Rach for this great pan.)  I topped them with a coconut milk frosting, fresh coconut flakes, and more fresh blue/blackberries, raspberries and mint leaves.  (Fresh coconut makes for such a pretty garnish.  I really recommend using this as often as you can get away with it.)

Berry Cream - another variation on a theme.  This time I baked blueberries, blackberries and raspberries into the cream cheese recipe, using the spiral Heritage pan.  Topped it with an almond cream cheese frosting, fresh berries and mint, a few lilac leaves, and one last piece of the stock.

I still have several pretty white Gerbers and a stem of lilacs blooming on my desk that I'd like to throw into the mix here.  Might have to bake a cake and send it up the hill to my friend N, who's slowed by chemo right now.  Lilacs especially make a beautiful filling for the hole in the middle of the bundt.

(Now that I've just gone all Betty Crocker on you, I need to go balance this out with some hard liquor and pole dancing and maybe a little motorcycle riding.  Preferably in assless leather chaps.  Sayonara, bitches.)

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

My super-talented bro-in-law is celebrating his album release this week.  Meander on over to his site to check out the action.  Go here to give a few tracks a listen.  (I'm partial to "Better Together.")  Sit back and enjoy his funky roots rock.  Then buy 16 copies and distribute them amongst your favorite friends, baristas and bus drivers.

Cheers, Paul!