Wedding Registries / Olive Oil Cupcakes

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This week’s recipe: Olive Oil Cupcakes

First, some exciting personal news: I am engaged! A man has declared me worthy and therefore validated my existence in society. It feels great! But no joke, Mark and I are supa-psyched. Our wedding isn’t going to be for a long time so we have plenty of time to celebrate and enjoy before the planning gets serious, but one of the things that I’m looking forward to most is registering. I remember getting to use the registry gun when I went shopping for college stuff at Bed Bath & Beyond. It was awesome, and I can’t wait to do it again. But the thing is, Mark and I already have pretty much every household implement one could possibly want, and we don’t have a ton of storage space in our Manhattan apartment kitchen, so we have to be judicious about what we register for. While this is my only chance to get a factory-new Vitamix and, let’s face it, I’ll probably succumb to the temptations a Le Creuset casserole or Dutch oven, I pray that once I have a registry gun in my hand, I am not suddenly convinced that I need a $1500 crystal vase just because somebody else is going to pay for it.

Let me explain. I went to private school with a lot of obscenely wealthy people. They are now getting married to other obscenely wealthy people (sometimes to each other!) and making wedding registries. Looking at, and mocking, their registries is one of my all-time favorite activities. I know it’s petty and pathetic but I don’t care. They’re going to have a lifetime of Baccarat and Waterford and Tiffany, can’t I just have this? Sometimes, I hope that some of these gifts are just elaborate troll jobs, that the couple is going to return them and use the money for, say, a down payment on an apartment. Because otherwise I can’t fathom the level of privilege and entitlement necessary to assume that 12 people will want to spend over $600 to buy you a single set of silverware. At least silverware might get some use. Below, with commentary by yours truly, are some of the most ridiculous gifts I’ve seen on people’s registries:

Baccarat Oenology Young Red Wine Decanter, $800

The one that started it all. When I saw this gift, I had so many questions. Do you need a separate $800 decanter for old red wines? And what about white wines? Do the white wines also need their own age-specific containers?

Baccarat Harmonie Ice Bucket, $770 AND Christofle Oh Isothermic Ice Pail, $400 AND Vertigo Ice Pail, $710 (all from the same registry)

Ice is free but that doesn’t mean that you should just take it from the freezer and put directly it in your drink like a peasant. No truly classy home is complete without at least $2000 worth of ice receptacles. And of course you must also use the Vertigo Ice Tongs, $215.

Elsa Peretti® Frame in Sterling Silver, $730

“The couple in the photo was perfect—barefoot, clad all in white, laughing on the beach. It was the sort of photo that came already in the frame when you bought it. No one would ever believe that such a beautiful, elegant couple, captured in such a beautiful, elegant photo, tucked inside such a beautiful, elegant picture frame could fall out of love six months into their marriage. And, Christine thought as she furiously polished the already-gleaming silver frame, nobody would ever find out.”

Tumi Alpha 2 Garment Cover, $295

For when you really want to spend $295 for what is essentially a trash bag on a hanger.

Oxo Mandoline Chef’s Sliver, $166.99

Sure, you don’t know how to boil water now, but everyone knows the day you get married, you are transformed into a domestic goddess who regularly makes her own potato chips. When that day comes, you will need this mandoline.

French Kitchen Marble Lazy Susan, $99.95

If I ever ask someone to spend $100 on a French marble Lazy Susan, please bash me over the head with said French marble Lazy Susan.

Clear Quartz Grande Votive, $840

This is literally a rock into which you place a candle. I really don’t have anything else to say about it. Words fail me.

So thanks, privileged couples with publicly view-able registries, for the hours of entertainment. I can’t wait until your kids start to crawl and break all your overpriced shit and spill young red wine on your white carpets.

So anyway, here are some cupcakes. For once, these are actually semi-related to today’s post, since I made them for our engagement party last night. They have a lovely mix of flavors – lemon, lavender, olive oil – and are perfect for spring. The only issue I found was that I had to add a lot more powdered sugar to the frosting to get it stiff enough to pipe (hence the wonky-looking frosting on the cupcakes in the header image), but my kitchen was also very hot so your mileage may vary. Between what I baked, what my dad baked, and what various friends bought, we had literally ten desserts, but I think it’s a testament to these cupcake’s deliciousness that almost every one got eaten!

Olive Oil Cupcakes

Adapted from The Almond Eater

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1½ cups cane sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup plain yogurt
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp lavender
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • For the icing:
  • ¼ cup ricotta
  • ¼ cup mascarpone
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder together in a bowl and set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, yogurt, olive oil, and vanilla together.
  4. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Last, stir in the lavender and lemon zest by hand.
  5. Prepare a cupcake pan and pour batter evenly into each cup.
  6. Bake cakes for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. For the icing: use an electric mixer to mix the ricotta and mascarpone together; add in the powdered sugar and vanilla and stir until everything is combined.
  8. Once cupcakes are cool, spread icing evenly among them.
  9. Enjoy!
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Mother’s Day / Fettuccine with Arugula Pesto

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This week’s recipe: Fettuccine with Arugula Pesto

So it’s Mother’s Day, and I’m sure that every blogger out there is like, “My mom is the best!” But really, my mom IS the best. Here, I lay out the case:

-My mom is a pioneer for women. She was in the first-ever class of women to graduate from Yale, and she went to Harvard Business School at a time when it was only 10 percent women. When my sisters and I were born, she worked for Dow Jones, and she was the second woman ever in that company to take maternity leave. Although she was intensely smart and driven, she also sacrificed for her kids, turning down promotions so that she could be home to have dinner with us and tuck us in. For years, I thought she was the family’s primary breadwinner. While this was inaccurate, it did wonders when it came to building up my self-esteem and my conception of what women are capable of. Here’s a fun story: my parents met at Harvard, where my dad was in law school and my mom in business school. Nearing graduation, my dad got offers from law firms in Pittsburgh and New York. My mom went to interview for jobs (again, this was a time when women in business was a novel concept). Almost all of the jobs in Pittsburgh at the time were in heavy industry, and her interviewers asked her intrusive questions about her personal life, her plans to marry and have kids, that today would be illegal to ask in a job interview. She was feeling hopeless about her prospects when she accompanied my dad to a dinner with the Pittsburgh firm’s partners and their wives. She recounted her woes to one of the wives, who told her, “Oh, don’t worry. I married my husband and since then, I’ve never worked a day in my life!” This prompted my mom to go to the bathroom and burst into tears. My dad literally proposed to her to get her to stop crying. Such is my mom’s work ethic and commitment to a professional as well as personal life.

-My mom never* compared me to my sisters. As the youngest of three girls, all of whom went to the same school and the same camp, it was natural that I would spend a lot of time trying to live up to my sisters. They were smart and popular and, it seemed to me, successful in ways that I could never match. My mom never made me feel like I was worth any less than them. When I was in ninth grade, I almost failed math. My parents told me, years later, that after the parent-teacher conference where they found out about my terrible math grades, they had a conversation about how they had to adjust their expectations for where I would be able to get into college. But they never let me know that, and whenever I would put myself down and say that my sisters were smart and I was dumb, my mom would raise me up, would remind me of all the places where I excelled, and would encourage me to try harder where I was failing. I fully credit her unceasing supportive attitude with the fact that I did eventually raise my grades and get into a good college.

-My mom is in a loving relationship and is nevertheless independent from my dad. My parents have been married for over forty years, and they have a partnership that anyone would envy. Still, they each have their own lives, their own interests and hobbies, and partnership has never lapsed into co-dependency. This has been a model for me in my relationships, and I think it’s the healthiest way to be.

-My mom never* made me feel bad about my body. Considering all that she’s done for me, it sounds weird to say that this was her greatest gift, but I had so many friends whose mothers gave them complexes about their bodies that manifested in really dangerous, long-lasting ways. Even though I was very overweight for much of my adolescence, my mom always gave me the message that there are more important things than how much you weigh. Even during my most awkward years, she never made me feel bad about my appearance. She let me come to awareness of my body in my own time, whether that was losing weight, learning how to manage my hair, or developing my own style. For a young woman, that’s an invaluable gift.

-My mom is now passing along these amazing gifts to her grandchildren. She is completely devoted to them and they are so lucky to have her. When I have kids, I know that she will be the most positive influence in their lives, and I only hope that I can be half the mom that she is.

*And when I say “never”, I don’t mean “never”, because my mom is human and she’s not perfect. Watching her sometimes fumble or struggle but always come back stronger has taught me the meaning of resilience and spirit. She is really the best!

So anyway, here’s some pasta. It’s the perfect dish for spring – light and green and gorgeous. I served it to one of my pickiest friends and she ate every bite.

Fettuccine with Arugula Pesto

From Feast and Fable 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 lb Fresh Fettuccine Pasta (I use this recipe)
  • 3 oz. Arugula
  • 1 lemon, plus additional lemon wedges for serving
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese, plus more for topping
  • 1/2 lb Sugar Snap Peas
  • 2 Tbsp. Butter
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Shallot
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Pistachios, toasted and chopped for topping
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

1.) Heat a medium pot of water to boiling. Meanwhile, prepare the fresh produce. Snap off the ends of each sugar snap pea and pull off any tough strings that run the seam of the pod. Thinly slice the shallot and mince the garlic. Juice and zest the lemon.

2.) To make the pesto, place the arugula, lemon zest and Parmesan cheese in a food processor. Begin pulsing, and drizzle in enough olive oil to create a rough paste. Next, add the juice from the lemon into the food processor and pulse to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside in a bowl.

3.) If you haven’t already, toast the pistachios in a pan over medium heat until brown and fragrant. Transfer to a cutting board and roughly chop.

4.) Using a large skillet, melt the 2 Tbsp. butter over medium-high heat. Then, add the minced garlic and sliced shallot and season with salt and pepper. Cook, until softened, about 2 to 4 minutes. Then, add the sugar snap peas and season again with salt and pepper. Cook until the peas are bright green, about 1 minute, and remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.

5.) Add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook 2 to 3 minutes or according to instructions. Once cooked, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.

6.) To assemble, add the pasta, arugula pesto and half of the pasta water to the pan of cooked snap peas. Use tongs to combine and evenly distribute the pesto. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If the pasta seems dry, add in more of the remaining pasta cooking water. Next, plate the pasta and sprinkle with chopped pistachios, Parmesan cheese and an extra lemon wedge.

AHCA / Mint Chip Meringues

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This week’s recipe: Mint Chip Meringues

Congratulations, Paul Ryan. You’ve passed a bill that will kill more Americans than ISIS ever could. You’ve passed a bill that will take from the very neediest in order to give more to people who already have more money than they could spend in a hundred lifetimes. You claim to be Catholic so I assume you believe in Hell. Aren’t you at all concerned about how this is going to look to your Creator? I know the God you pray to cries when a woman aborts her rapist’s baby, but I don’t know His feelings on that same woman, after being forced to carry her baby to term, having her health insurance costs skyrocket from the double-whammy of having been sexually assaulted and having gone through a pregnancy. Maybe we’ll find out, but it’s okay regardless, because your actions this week no doubt pleased your real gods, Ayn Rand and your donors.

Divine retribution aside, there will be some earthly justice if this is what finally causes people to see the truth about what a phony you are and always have been. Sure, that should have been evident to anyone who read your Wikipedia page and realized that, while you’ve spent your whole 25-year career railing against the evils of Washington and the federal government, you have spent literally one year of that career not working in Washington, either for the federal government or immediately adjacent to it. But some people are kind of thick and needed a demonstration.

I’m thinking in particular of certain media types who crowned you the Wonk King of Washington. Now the world can see that you’re the sort of wonk who hastily slaps together the shittiest, most incoherent bill imaginable and rams it through before it has time to be properly read, let alone have its potential impact assessed, all in order to avoid a mean tweetstorm from the President. You know, a real policy wonk!

The same credulous morons who have bestowed upon you the title of “wonk” had such high hopes for you as the bright new face of Republican leadership. But you have an interesting way of leading. This bill is not going to become law. I don’t mean to say that there’s no way that it will pass in the Senate, but it won’t pass in anything like its current form; it’s completely radioactive and GOP senators are already distancing themselves from it. You’ve done nothing except expose the members of your caucus for the cynical, craven opportunists they are, and of course hand a “win” to a president who doesn’t give a shit about making good policy and who will stab you in the back the second it becomes convenient. The AHCA vote will be an albatross around the neck of any remotely vulnerable Republican incumbent running next year, and you won’t even have gotten anything out of it. That’s the sort of leadership we can get behind!

You and your fellow GOP congressmen did this to yourselves. You went around the country, whipping your constituents into a lather and convincing them that something that the Heritage Foundation proposed 20 years ago was actually the most dangerous threat to American liberty since the Red Menace. The truth is, Obamacare already is the free-market solution to healthcare. It’s not perfect, but there’s no better plan that would fit within your ideological parameters; if there were, maybe you would have been able to figure it out during the past seven years so it would be all ready to go once you got control of government. Instead, you rely on distortions and lies. You go around lecturing about how unjust it is that the young and healthy should have to subsidize the old and sick, which is literally the meaning of insurance. You say you don’t want a faceless government bureaucrat coming between you and your doctor*—no, that’s the job of a faceless insurance company executive. You maintain that your problem with Obamacare was that it led to higher premiums and worse coverage, but any bill that you support inevitably has the same problems (only worse), because you don’t think that the government should be involved in helping more people get health insurance. You seem to suspect that that’s not a politically defensible position in 2017, so instead of making an argument on the merits, you hide behind a cascade of obfuscation and bullshit.

I’m hopeful that this bill dies in the Senate, and all that happens is that when the time comes to run ads for the 2018 election, we have Republican congressmen on record voting to take healthcare away from 24 million Americans. (Those visuals of you guys partying it up in the Rose Garden after the vote should prove particularly effective, so thanks for that, I guess. I hope those beers give you all liver cancer and that Mo Brooks tells you that you don’t deserve treatment because you didn’t do enough to keep your body healthy.) But I’m still depressed to think that over 200 of our nation’s elected representatives could vote for something so obviously stupid and cruel. I hope you all get your comeuppance for it, and that nobody has to die because of your fathomless cynicism and inhumanity.

*Abortions excepted, of course.

So anyway, here are some meringues. As someone who makes a fair amount of ice cream and fresh pasta and whatnot, I always have a lot of egg whites in the freezer, so making meringues is a good way to use them up. Light, dairy-free meringues are the perfect Shabbat dessert following a big meat meal. Always be sure to use room-temperature egg whites. I took mine out of the fridge in the morning and made the meringues after work, and I’m still alive, so I guess it’s safe? These cookies got excellent reviews from my friend Hannah, who came over for Shabbat dinner, my friend Sarah who ate them the next day, and my nephew Simon, who is a big fan of the mint-chocolate flavor combo. And who isn’t, really? Can’t go wrong with a classic!

Mint Chip Meringues

From Joy the Baker

Ingredients
  1. 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  2. pinch of salt
  3. 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  4. 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  5. 1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
  6. 1/2 – 3/4 cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate
Instructions
  1. Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Clean and dry the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Add egg whites and beat egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add pinch of salt and cream of tartar. Increase speed to medium high and beat to soft peaks. The egg whites will be white and foamy, with large but tight bubbles.
  4. Gradually add the granulated sugar, increasing the mixer speed to high. Beat for about 3 minutes on high speed, until stiff, glossy peaks form.
  5. Stir in the peppermint extract and chocolate chunks.
  6. Egg whites will be spoonable, but keep their shape when dolloped onto a baking sheet.
  7. On prepared baking sheet, dollop out egg white mixture into two heaping tablespoonfuls. Space about 1-inch apart, although the meringues won’t spread as they bake. Place in the oven and allow to cook for 60 to 70 minutes. Meringues will brown sightly on the top and feel hollow to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Remove from the parchment and serve with coffee or mint tea.
  8. Meringues will last, in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to 3 days.

 

Running / Breakfast Smoothie

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This week’s recipe: Pre-Run Breakfast Smoothie

Yesterday I ran my second half marathon. Since I have now run two (I ran my first one in March 2016), it’s basically like I’ve run a marathon, right? That’s just how math works. Everyone says that after you run a half marathon, you will want to run a marathon. I say that hitting mile 12 in a race and not even being halfway done is too depressing to contemplate. Still, the fact that I am able to run any sort of far distance is kind of miraculous.

I don’t exactly come from an athletic family. My dad is in excellent shape, and he bikes and runs, but his involvement with team sports was limited to being in his high school marching band. My mom falls down a lot. My oldest sister was a pretty good tennis player in high school but not exactly Serena Williams. My middle sister evinced a genuine interest in sports, and an equally genuine lack of ability or talent. As for me, I was on the volleyball and softball teams in middle school, because if you were on a sports team, you didn’t have to go to regular gym class. Since I was so terrible at both volleyball and softball, the coaches almost never put me in the game. If they did, they would rotate me out again as quickly as possible, or stick me way out in the outfield where I had ample time to scheme about how I was going to convince my parents to let me see Rent. This arrangement suited me just fine, in large part because my gym teachers exhibited all of the sadism for which members of that profession are famous. A particularly memorable example was when they forced us to run across the length of the gym within a certain time (15 seconds or thereabouts). If the whole class didn’t make it to the opposite wall before the time was up, we had to do it over again, until everyone made it in time. Needless to say, if you weren’t capable of running that far in 15 seconds the first time, it didn’t become any easier after ten or 20 tries. Out of mercy or boredom, the gym teacher finally let us stop, but not before I was red-faced, panting, and humiliated to the verge of tears with the knowledge that my slow ass was messing this up for everyone.

Nothing got better. In seventh grade, we were bussed out to Astoria to run the mile. Out of about 50 girls in our grade, I came in second-to-last. I was also the only girl in our grade to suffer an exercise-induced asthma attack during the mile. So you’ll understand that I did all I could to avoid running. In high school, we got to pick our gym electives, and I signed up for strength training. I was the only girl in the class. It turned out that the athletic kids did sports; the unathletic girls did a class called Body Conditioning; and the unathletic boys (and I) did strength training. It was awesome. Everyone in the class, myself included, was an unpopular nerd, so we sat around on the exercise machines and talked to each other and, on the rare occasion that the gym teacher bothered to poke his head in, pretended to work out. It was the best.

On the other end of the spectrum was camp, where I had to join a team sport. If I had been less of a goody-goody, I would have gone the route of many of my bunkmates, who picked a sport coached by a counselor who they knew didn’t give a shit, and then never went to practice. Instead, as I had in middle school, I picked volleyball because I thought it would involve the least amount of running. Unlike in middle school, that turned out to be a tragic misperception. Our coaches were real bastards of the old school, and we did more running than any team other than soccer. And in the summer heat and humidity, no less. It was the worst.

The first time I ever remember running without someone forcing me to was right after the summer I spent in Israel on a teen trip. That summer, with its early morning hikes through the desert and hot Israelis in tiny swimsuits, had brought home to me how very overweight and out of shape I was. I was waking up very early in the mornings because of jet lag and one morning, I decided to go run around the Central Park reservoir as the sun came up. I was extremely slow and had to take a number of breaks, but I managed to do it, and I was amazed at my increeeeeeedible accomplishment of running 1.6 miles in, like, 25 minutes.

From then on, I ran very sporadically for the next eight years. The exact moment that I got into running with any seriousness was January 12, 2014—the day I bought my first smartphone. For reasons that are still unclear to me, the very first app I downloaded was Runkeeper, and I immediately set a goal to run 20 miles by the end of January. From there, I kept upping my mileage goals, and kept hitting them, until running became a habit. When my sisters suggested that we should do a 10K, it seemed natural. Just as it seemed naturally to drunkenly register for the New York City half marathon lottery, never thinking I’d get in.

Fast forward to a year and a month later, and I’ve just completed my second half marathon. This one was significantly harder, in part because of the course (twice through Central Park, with all of its hills), and in part because I didn’t train nearly as hard as I did for the first one. This was partly laziness, and party the fact that, psychologically, the knowledge that I had already run a half marathon once made me much less anxious about running one a second time. And although I spent the whole race wanting to die, running half marathons has really changed my relationship to my body. Women spend so much time hating their bodies–their arms, their butts, their stomachs, their thighs, and so on. When I run a half marathon, I look at myself and think, Wow, my body is capable of doing this amazing thing, how could I possibly hate it?

So anyway, here’s a smoothie. Specifically, this is the smoothie that I always have before a race. I know what you are thinking. Chocolate + peanut butter = yum! Chocolate + peanut butter + strawberries = eh? Chocolate + peanut butter + strawberries + spinach = stop, that’s disgusting. But it’s actually insanely good, and it gives you exactly the energy boost you need to run a race. It’s the breakfast of champions, and will get you through your run so that you can enjoy the dinner of champions: Scotch and cocktail weenies.

Pre-Run Breakfast Smoothie

From Peanut Butter Fingers

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 pack frozen spinach
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Instructions

  1. Blend and enjoy!