Thursday, August 27, 2009

Reddish Velvet Beet Cupcakes with Bourbon Cream Cheese Icing

My friend Jamie had a big birthday last week, so we celebrated in style. She loves red velvet cupcakes (she is from the South after all), but I don't really like the idea of adding red food dye, and the natural food coloring available at Whole Foods was prohibitively expensive. I love using beets in baked goods, so I went ahead and made this version of red velvet cupcakes, minus the food coloring, and with the addition of 1/3 cup cooked and pureed beets to add natural coloring. I also added extra bourbon to the icing because it's another one of Jamie's faves (recipe below).

Well, as I've heard happens but hoped it wouldn't, the cupcakes came out a light reddish brown. The beets I used were pale pink because that's all I could find on short notice, so I'd like to experiment again using normal deep dark red beets.

So even though my creation turned out more as "Reddish" Velvet Beet Cupcakes, they were still tasty, especially because of the Bourbon Cream Cheese Icing, which was a big hit with my coworkers and Jamie. Luckily I ended up with leftover icing, a perfect excuse to make another batch of cupcakes - cinnamon-spiced flecked with diced apples and pears - this week to use up that sugary creamy goodness.

Later on for the birthday girl's big night out, we went to Mason Dixon in the LES for bourbon and bull-riding! I don't normally like going out in Manhattan, but the bartenders there were supernice. I wonder why? Maybe it's their way of bringing Southern hospitality to New York? Oh yeah and after much insisting from Jamie, I rode a mechanical bull ;-)

Bourbon Cream Cheese Icing

5 tbsp butter
1 package cream cheese (8 oz)
roughly 3/4 of a box of Dominos Confectioners Sugar
1 tsp milk
1 tbsp vanilla bean-infused bourbon (or 1 tsp vanilla and 2 tsp bourbon)

Let butter and cream cheese soften after taking out of the fridge. Cream together with a fork, then combine with remaining ingredients until smooth. Adjust ingredients to taste (ie, add more vanilla bourbon if too dry, add more sugar if too wet). Makes enough icing for approximately 24 cupcakes, depending on how much icing you use to top off each cupcake.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Trials of Faux-Vegetarianism

Some time ago in the past couple years I pledged to try to only eat meat that is sustainably raised. Because I'm grossed out by the idea of eating meat from an animal that spent its life in a dirty crowded small space pumped with corn feed and antibiotics grosses me out. And because thoughtful, ethical, sustainable farms leave less of a trace on the planet. However, try is the key word there.

I keep my pledge in my own home by only buying meat from the farmers market. I keep it by eating out at restaurants that source their food from local and organic farms.

BUT I run into trouble when circumstance forces me to eat from places that don't give a f* about the meat they serve, which would be most eateries. Because most of the time, the vegetarian options are unappealing and are usually limited to one or two lines on a menu, and outside of NYC sometimes none! For some reason, they often involve mushrooms, which guess what, not every "vegetarian" likes mushrooms and wants to eat them every time she goes out! Or the options are a grilled cheese sandwich or a plain salad, which I'd rather not spend my hard-earned money on something I could just as easily make at home, thank you very much. Or fries, which is not exactly a "meal."

So this is why I slip up. Because when vegetarian options just don't do it for me, I'd rather eat meat because I'm not a vegetarian and I do enjoy eating meat.

Which leads me to my question for the vegetarians out there, don't you feel offended by the scant options you're given? How do you deal with this??

Monday, August 24, 2009

Art from Art

During my car-free weekend upstate, I also spent a rainy day at the Dia Beacon, a contemporary art museum. It wasn't really my kind of thing. Lots of minimalist artwork that doesn't look like art (think geometric shapes with simple variations) and lots of handouts so full of pretentious gobbledygook that all I could do was scoff at them; the museum's words didn't help me understand any better how this stuff could be art.

But I DID like the huge Richard Serra metal sculptures because of their interactivity as you walk through, in, and around them.

Also, my boyfriend is obsessed with using his iThing apps, especially Photo Booth, to take cool pictures that turn art into meta-art.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bannerman's Island

The weekend before the move, instead packing like intelligent, well-prepared people would have done, I split town to escape. After all the driving and traffic of earlier trips in July, I planned a car-free getaway to make the weekend as stress-less as possible (and eco-friendly).

I spent the weekend in Cold Spring and Beacon, an easy and beautiful trainride away from New York City. Both towns have main streets and several attractions within walking distance of the train stations, so I didn't have to get in a car once. It was amazing! I spent my nights in Cold Spring, which has several nice restaurants to choose from for dinner, and stayed at Pig Hill Inn a perfectly nice b&b there and then took the train one stop further to Beacon for our daytrips.

The trip included a tour of Bannerman's Island. I'd passed this dilapidated castle in the middle of the Hudson River several times on train rides to the city during college and wondered what it was.

Turns out you can tour Bannerman's Island on the weekends and learn about the island's history. Francis Bannerman bought the island in 1900 and built several imposing castle-like structures of his own design to stores arsenals for his weapons and ammunitions business.

In time, Bannerman also constructed a beautiful home on the island with an amazing river view. The island was used by the Bannerman family and friends into the 1930s, until the business dried up and the island fell into disrepair.

The island is technically a New York State park, but is managed by the Bannerman Castle Trust, which leads the tours and is raising money to restore some of the structures to create a museum. After spending our sunny Saturday afternoon on the island, I somewhat disagree with the Trust's goals. In my opinion, it would be a much more valuable use of money to to establish the island as a park open for public recreational use instead of as restricted place that people can only access under the supervision of Trust staff. I understand this may be difficult due to the possibility of unexploded ammunition hidden in the ruins, but still...

Wouldn't you like to take a boat or kayak there for a summer afternoon, explore the meandering pathways, and set down a blanket for a picnic with a spectacular view? I certainly wished that's what I was doing instead of following around the obsessed tour guides who yelled at us when we strayed from their path.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dog Beach

Tucked away in a corner of a lily-padded pond toward the south end of the Long Meadow in Prospect Park is a wonderful dog beach. I don't know how this beach came to be, but whoever thought of the idea is brilliant! We took Milo there last Saturday. Apparently he loved to swim in the lake when he was a baby puppy growing up in the woods of the Adirondacks before he came to Brooklyn.

It was the perfect activity for such a hot day, now that New York City's infamous horridly humid summer days are here. Milo got to cool off in the water, while I stood on the sidelines with the camera and the other, water-fearing dog who refused to even touch the water.

Even if you don't have a dog, it's worthwhile to stop by on a walk through the park for some cute overload. Dogs leaping to play fetch in the pond, splashing, playing, treading water, carrying sticks in their mouths. It's an adorable spectacle that gathers quite a crowd.

ED Note: Apparently the dog beach is filled with giardia, so it's actually not such a great idea to take dogs there. But fun to stop and watch the unsuspecting dogs whose owners don't care, nonetheless.

Friday, August 14, 2009

First Dinner

Last weekend was my first in the new apartment, and on Saturday morning I hit up the farmers market less than 2 blocks (!) away for some pretty flowers and the makings of our first dinner:

Sandshark marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, thyme, salt, and pepper
Corn on the cob and potatoes
all cooked on the grill for simplicity's sake
with a nice red wine saved for this special occasion.

The sandshark was a pretty rare find. It's a white fish, thick like swordfish, and was the most flavorful fish I've had in a long time. PLUS sandshark was supercheap at less than $7/lb.

Thankfully I don't have any real plans for this weekend, so I can take my time with things like finishing unpacking, putting up artwork, getting some flowers for the yard, exploring the neighborhood, and taking the dogs for walks in the park.

The sun is shining through my open door right now, and I hope your weekend also brings you sunshine and peace.

Bohemian Luxe Camping

I was totally enamored with this campsite at Grey looks like something straight of a magazine and has everything you'd want in a home away from home. Colorful print fabrics, plenty of comfy seating nooks, secondhand decor, potted plants, and even a chandelier! I'm happy to learn that their labor of love won the festival award for the best campsite! Click here to see more inspirational detail shots.

What do you like to bring with you on camping our outdoor trips to make roughin' it feel a little less rough and a little more lovely? I've been inspired by this bohemian site and a desert fete to at least bring a tablecloth next time we camp.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Sites of Grey Fox

With all the zillions of campsite crowded into one farm for Grey Fox, it was also fun to walk through the rows of tents, RVs, and buses, and marvel at the inventive ways people managed to personalize their temporary dwellings.

This group built their structure using birch logs!

It must be fun to sleep in a teepee

and take outdoor showers

But stay tuned tomorrow morning for my favorite campsite of them all...

The Faces of Grey Fox

Grey Fox Festival was filled with people of all ages and sizes from babies to old hippies and all kinds of characters. Lots of groups of families and friends. A true testament to being young at heart no matter their age. I got to play with my new SLR camera, and there was a lot of opportunity to practice candid shots.

i loved this girl's outfit!