Built: Nature In The Raw

This time of year is all about getting out of the house – we’ve been cooped up for many long months! But there is a desire to freshen and rejuvenate our lives indoors as well. We’re opening windows, purging excess belongings, excavating the dust and grime that accumulated during the darker months; and cutting the first spring blooms to proudly display indoors. The raw shapes and forms of natural objects can be a refreshing addition to our interior decor; adding texture, beauty and functionality to any space.

In the bathroom:

As storage and shelving:

The natural angle of branches become shelf brackets

Branch shelf three ways

Tree branch hooks

Driftwood as a clothing rod

As furniture:

Tree stump coffee table

a gorgeous natural slab table top showcases the shape of the wood

And as lighting:

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Birthday Cake All Grown Up

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The past week was the best kind of whirlwind; full of birthdays, elaborate meals, a weekend away, and best of all, lots and lots of cake.

I looked in the pantry at 6pm on my husband’s birthday and realized two crucial things: I had procrastinated baking a cake until 6pm, and I had no butter or white flour. Undeterred, I stumbled upon a gem of a recipe I will be revisiting time and again. Imagine an unbelievably tender orange scented crumb studded with the faint crunch of poppyseeds. A generous drizzle of a glossy orange-chocolate ganache takes this cake completely over the edge. The wonders continue: its made completely with whole wheat pastry flour and only 1/2 cup of olive oil and it comes together in a flash with minimal dishes, no mixer required!

Evan and Matt

Our wedding cake table

I am not a big cake person. I find they’re often dry and lacking in flavor, topped with a shelack of overly sweet frosting. Not my thing. So when I got married last summer, I wasn’t eager to go the wedding cake route. We ended up baking 5 varieties of bundt cakes for the wedding — the cake is super moist and flavorful and paired with a light glaze rather than frosting. And the shape of the cake is already so fancy, it needs little in the way of decoration.

Since we had so much success with the wedding cakes, bundt cake has become my go to when I need to bake something. Essentially the same thing as a pound cake (a bundt cake recipe usually calls for 10 cups of batter; roughly two pound cakes) olive oil cakes adapt especially well to the format. They stay very moist, and actually improve in the days immediately after baking. More pictures and recipe after the jump… Continue reading

A Spring in my Step

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After last weeks mini heat wave — Wednesday was 96 degrees!—spring has finally sprung. For real this time! I’m thrilled. There are blooms everywhere you look; cherry, bradford pear and magnolia blossoms, but also a sprawling bush with neon yellow flowers I couldn’t identify. Turns out its forsythia (or, as Matt calls it for-cynthia) Around here, you see it everywhere you turn. Could there be more wonderful sign of spring?P1040256

And the garden is growing! More garden pictures after the jump…

Continue reading

Whisper Thin Sandwich

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This is my favorite kind of lunch — a few staples and leftovers come together to create something wholly satisfying in a matter of minutes. Thin slices of whole wheat toast are slathered with creamy Greek yogurt, and topped with a spicy, tangy tomato chutney. Leftover grilled pork tenderloin is shaved into whisper thin slices, and topped with sharp white cheddar and fresh pickles. Finished with a dusting of lemon zest and a handful of micro greens. These micro greens are actually garden tinnings of radish, beet, spinach, arugula and turnip greens. Nothing wasted and delicious to boot.

More a template than recipe, I always change it up based on what I have on hand. But I find it so helpful to have a handful of go to lunch ideas when mid day rolls around and I’m suddenly starving.

The bread is really key, I like something with lots of seeds and grains (this is a current favorite). I love to build off a creamy base; I’ll often use thick Greek yogurt, but ricotta, labneh, hummus or avocado are all delicious (Heidi has a wonderful post up about labneh)

To this I’ll  add something with a little pop to offset the creaminess — like spicy chutney, stone ground mustard, pickled vegetables or marmalade

I think the key with a sandwich like this is the textures and balance; the bread should provide structure and plenty of crunch, while any vegetables, meats and cheeses are shaved thin to keep things light and delicate.

Excellent toppings include: zucchini or asparagus ribbons, thin slices of cucumber, onion, pepper; fresh peas; a little later in the season tomato slices topped with a sprinkle of finishing salt. I’m always heavy handed with greens — I’ll finish with as much fresh arugula, spinach, micro greens, or herbs as I can.

Happy lunching!

Have a Wonderful Weekend!

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Its the first weekend of April and it feels like Spring! Matt and I worked in the greenhouse today— so many little seedlings to tend! — and drew up plans for an exciting new addition to the garden. More on that soon! We’re having grilled shrimp tacos with fresh pineapple salsa tonight to celebrate the great weather. Saturday we’re making a trip down to DC to visit friends for dinner. Can’t wait for the (2 hour) premier of Mad Men Sunday night, should be good! Hope you have a relaxing and refreshing weekend!

Photo by Laura Taylor

Wear your Vegetables

Kale! My favorite vegetable is now available in the form a necklace. How cool is that? The etsy store Live-Love-Leaf sells necklaces made from actual kale leaves dipped in copper and then silver or gold plated. And what a great conversation starter!

Kale is such a gorgeous plant naturally; its structure is so perfectly captured by this jewelery. Would you wear a kale leaf?

5 Things

I’m laughing at myself. This post demonstrates loud and clear that unless its delivered right to my door (hello Bon Appetit) I’m about a year behind on all things pop culture. But this week the public library has come through big for me. Music. Books. Movies. I’m excited, even if most of you are way ahead of me.

{ dying to try: the new Bon Appetit is out, and boy oh boy do I want this sandwich }

{ watching: Drive. for the first time. i already want to see it again. why did i wait so long? }

{ reading: what a book. getting me very excited for spring produce! }

{ craving: bold geometric prints. these are the perfect flats for spring }

{ listening: I may be late to the party, but I’m loving Grizzly Bear’s Shields. thank you public library }

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Olive Oil Tasting

Have you ever done an olive oil tasting? Its fascinating and delicious! I had my first olive oil Imagetasting last summer, when my mom and I were deciding on finishing oils for my wedding dinner. We went to an imported food warehouse, and when we asked for advice on picking the best olive oils, the guy started opening bottles for us. He poured the oil into little cups, and we sipped it straight! I would have never thought this would be an enjoyable experience, but good olive oil is outrageously delicious and complex. Now, whenever I try a new olive oil, before I cook with it I’ll give it a taste and compare it to others I’ve tried.

Nancy Ash, of Strictly Olive Oil instructs how to conduct a tasting of your own. Its a lot like tasting wine:

Swirl: Begin by pouring the olive oil into a small glass; a colored, tapered glass similar to a wine glass is best. Cup the bottom of the glass in your hand to warm the oil; cover the top with your other hand and swirl gently to release the aromas.

Smell: Bring the glass to your nose and smell the oil. Take a note of the aromas.

Slurp: Next, take a slurp. As you do so, touch your tongue to the back of your teeth and inhale. This spreads the oil in your mouth and helps release the flavors of the olive oil. You’ll make a funny noise, which is normal!

Swallow: Finally, swallow the oil and take note of the flavors you experience.

With a new understanding of how to really taste olive oil, I’ve been having a lot of fun trying new brands. But I think I’ve found my favorite. California Olive Ranch’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil is made only from California olives, and has an extraordinarily mild buttery profile. It is delicious in aioli, because the flavor of the oil isn’t overpowering or particularly bitter. And unlike many European oils, which despite claiming Spanish or Italian origin often contain oil from several countries, all the olives are from California.

If you’ve never tried your olive oil straight, pull out the bottles in your kitchen and give it a go. What do you think?

this is not a sponsored post, just a product I love