Archive for September, 2012

Olive Oil Grape Cake

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Grapes are probably on my list of top five favorite fruits. Right now mangos are a top contender, and I do eat an apple a day. But grapes are just so addictive – they are probably the only fruit I could easily eat too much of!

I knew I wanted to bake with them, and had to spend quite a while searching for a good recipe. There are not a lot of baking recipes that include grapes (they tend to be more involved in the salad scene). However, when I saw this grape cake by Alex Guarnaschelli, I knew I had stumbled onto a very promising recipe.

I was not disappointed! I am absolutely in love with this cake. In fact, as I write this I am going through separation anxiety from the one remaining piece that I know is waiting for me at home. It was SO GOOD.

The magic begins with grapes, of course. I’m sure you could use any kind, but I went with black.

Be sure and toss your grapes and dried cranberries (or golden raisins if you prefer) in a bit of flour, to prevent them from sinking to the bottom during the baking process.

Part of why I love this cake is because it was just so well behaved. When I removed it from the oven it was baked perfectly. There was also no trouble at all removing it from the pan. (Part of this was because I finally got around to buying a springform pan. I’m so excited because now I can finally make cheesecake!! But that’s for another day.)

The glaze for the top is made from honey, ginger, and more grapes.

A big part of what makes this cake so good is how the olive oil, grapes, ginger, lemon, honey and almond come together in one flavorful, harmonic, Mediterranean burst of flavor. I sincerely hope you give this a try!

Olive Oil Grape Cake

Makes 8-10 servings

Slightly adapted from

1/2 stick butter, plus extra for pan, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 lemon, zested
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 tablespoon, sifted, divided
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 heaping cup plus heaping 1/2 cup fresh seedless grapes, stemmed, washed, dried and halved, divided
1 cup heavy cream, cold
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup honey
1 small ginger knob, peeled and grated, about 1 heaping tablespoon
Special equipment: 1 (9-inch) round springform pan or 1 (9-inch) glass baking dish (I used springform)

Note: It is very important that eggs, milk, butter and olive oil are at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a handheld mixer, blend the sugar and butter in a large bowl until they become lighter in color – about 5-8 minutes. Slowly beat in the eggs and lemon zest.

Sift the 1 1/2 cup flour, baking powder and salt into the batter. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the batter until they are incorporated. Stir in the olive oil and milk.

In a separate bowl, toss the heaping 1 cup of grapes as well as dried cranberries with the tablespoon of flour. Add this fruit to the batter and stir just until blended.

Pour batter into a 9-inch springform pan that has been greased with butter. Bake on the center rack for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cake cool on wire rack, then remove sides of springform pan to let it finish cooling.

Meanwhile, whip cream, powdered sugar and almond extract until soft peaks form.

In a small saute pan, cook honey on low heat until it is simmering. Honey will bubble, thicken and turn light brown (this should take about 2-3 minutes). Add in the grated ginger and heaping 1/2 cup of grapes. Turn heat off and let glaze cool.

Spoon sauce over cake. Add dollop of whipped cream to slices. Enjoy!

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5 Tips for Surviving the Career Hunt

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

If you’re reading this post, odds are that at some point in your life you have spent time trying to figure out your perfect career. By this I mean the somewhat illusive concept of a job that is fulfilling, purposeful, interesting and also lucrative.

It’s also most likely that you haven’t found a job/career that fits that description 100%. It’s possible you’ve found it, but not likely.

The right career is certainly something I’ve been working to find for many years. I’ve done my share of internships, certifications, online searches, and meetings with my career counselor.

I think one of the reasons it’s so hard to narrow down and choose something these days is because this generation has so many options. Our grandfathers’ generation would simply choose a company and stay there for 40 years. These days, it is acceptable and normal to have a handful of careers over the course of our professional lives. We are encouraged to shoot for the stars, follow our dreams, and live up to our full potential.

Not that that advice is necessarily wrong, but it can be a lot of pressure too! We want to live up to our potential, but that can leave us feeling anxious and indecisive. Additionally, the hunt for the “perfect” job can sometimes get in the way of the right job.

Sometimes it is good to take a chance, do something radical and exciting, and possibly succeed. But at other times the right choice is to do something a bit boring, that allows you to take care of your responsibilities and/or family.

I do not have the absolute answer for me or for anyone else. I’m getting closer to the right direction in my own life, although I’m not completely there yet. Along the way, however, as I’ve searched and sought and brainstormed, I’ve received some really wise and encouraging advice from my career counselor and family members. I thought I would take a moment and share with you a list of the best bits of advice I’ve received.

1. Don’t compare yourself to others.
In the age of social media, when everyone is sharing the best parts of their lives (or how they hope to be perceived) through Facebook, it is easy to compare. This is true for jobs, relationships, etc etc. However, remember that nobody’s life or situation is perfect. Take your eyes off of what everyone else is doing and focus on figuring out the right path for yourself.

2. Don’t compare yourself to a storybook timeline.
In our culture, we have it set in our minds that the right path is to go to college, get a job, get married, move to a nice house, and have children. The reality is, these events rarely happen to us in this exact order. Life is unpredictable. If we constantly compare ourselves to this timeline, then we will also constantly feel inadequate or like a failure.

3.  Sometimes a job is a just a job
No matter your current situation or level of career satisfaction, I think it’s important to take time to reflect on your purpose in life. What do you want to live for? What do you want to accomplish in this life? What brings meaning and joy to you? These are the important things to focus on. If you’re lucky, your job will coincide with these things. Sometimes it won’t, but that’s ok. If you are focused on what’s important and doing that outside of work, then you will be more fulfilled.

4. Your job does not define you
See above. This is a hard one for us. When we meet someone, almost the first question we ask is what they “do”. This is for a good reason – it tells us a lot about them. However, I personally think it’s more important to consider who you are and what matters to you so that you are comfortable in your identity and purpose outside of work. Then if you somehow lose your job, you won’t have a major identity crisis to accompany the stress of job hunting.

5. It is OK to switch careers
As mentioned before, these days we change jobs much more often. This can be a good thing, because it takes some pressure off. Just because you are working somewhere right now, doesn’t mean you will be working there for all eternity. You might need to be there for a couple of years and use the time to save money towards your more risky venture in the future.

I hope these bits of advice help you in the same way they have helped me! Keeping these things in mind has given me a lot of encouragement.

If you have any advice of your own or thoughts on this subject, feel free to comment below as I would love to hear what you have to say. GOOD LUCK!!

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Mango Sticky Rice

Monday, September 24th, 2012

I’ve mentioned before that I spent a couple months in Thailand. I have so many vivid, positive memories of my time there. Many of those include the food of course!

I think I had Pad Thai basically every day. I also loved all the fresh fruit and other snacks we could pick up at the outdoor market. However, one of my most vivid memories was pulling coconut flavored sticky rice out of a bamboo stalk. It was so sticky it was close to the consistency of a rice crispy treat, and soooo delicious!

I obviously can’t replicate that exact snack, but one Thai dessert that is scrumptious and actually really easy to make is mango sticky rice. You’re probably familiar with it as it is one dessert that is almost always on the menu at Thai restaurants.

To begin with, you need a sticky rice, which is not the same as regular rice. It may be called “Thai sweet rice” or “glutinous rice” and can be found at your local Asian food store.

You will also need coconut milk. Be sure and get the thick stuff that comes in cans (not the drinkable kind). I got this at Fred Meyer.

And of course you need mangos. Technically, mangos are in season around the month of May. I purchased mine at Whole Foods and was only able to find mangos grown in California, so they’re different than what we would have had in Thailand. Despite all this they were DELICIOUS. If they weren’t so expensive I would eat them every day!

I was a little nervous about this recipe, as there are a few different methods for cooking the rice online. In the end it turned out absolutely delicious. The best part is soaking everything in the sweet coconut sauce….yum.

I took this recipe from I’ve reworded it per my own experience, but if you follow the link there are even more in-depth explanations about the process. I hope you give this a try!

Mango Sticky Rice

Makes two servings

Slightly adapted from

1 cup Thai sweet rice
4-5 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 13.5 oz can good-quality (thick) coconut milk
1-2 ripe mangos, sliced or cut into pieces

Add 1 cup of water to the rice. Let rice soak for at least half an hour.

Do not drain the rice. Add in an additional 3/4 cup water, along with 1 Tbsp of the sugar, the salt, and 1/4 the can of coconut milk. Bring this to a gentle boil, then turn the heat down to low. Place the lid on top at an angle so some steam can escape. Be sure and stir on occasion so the rice doesn’t burn. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the rice absorbs the liquid.

Turn off the heat, but keep the pot on the burner. Place the lid on all the way. Let rice sit for 5-10 minutes.

Slice the mangos. To make the sauce, add the remaining coconut milk to a saucepan and heat on medium-low for five minutes (don’t allow it to boil). Stir in remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar. Taste the sauce and add more sugar if necessary (remember the rice will absorb the sweetness).

Place rice on plates or in bowls, add mangos and drizzle sauce liberally. Enjoy!

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Candy Corn Bites

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

I don’t know if you’ve heard the rumors, but there has been talk of candy corn Oreos sold exclusively at Target. As soon as I heard this bit of news I felt the inspiration to make a candy corn version of the Grasshopper Pie Bites I made earlier this year.

Tragically, my Target was all sold out! They did however have Halloween flavored Oreos, with an orange filling. I figured that would work just as well.

Thankfully, the filling only has a faint orange flavor, and the whole bite together simply has the sweet flavor of candy corn itself.

If you end up making these, and feel ambitious enough to try it with the two-tone candy corn version (which would mean splitting the filling in half as you make it) please let me know! Otherwise, this version totally works and is the perfect appetizer for a fall party.

Candy Corn Bites

Adapted from Grasshopper Pie Bites
Originally adapted from and inspired by Cooking Classy

Makes about 40 bites

20 Halloween Oreos
1 cup marshmallow creme
1/2 teaspoon orange food coloring (optional)
1 cup whipping cream
Candy corn (about 120 pieces)

Separate 20 Oreos. Set the filling aside in a little bowl.

In a large bowl, beat the marshmallow creme and food coloring together until smooth. (Note: If you don’t have orange just add a few drops of red and yellow.)

Mash the Oreo fillings with a fork, then add to the marshmallow mixture and beat until completely combined.

In a separate bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form, then fold it into the marshmallow mixture. It will be hard to combine the two at first but don’t despair – just keep folding until combined. Place mixture in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

Use this time to set out the 40 base wafers.

Remove mixture from the freezer, and scoop it into a large Ziploc bag. Cut the tip/corner off the bag. Pipe a dollop of the mixture onto each wafer. Garnish with candy corn.

Freeze for at least 2 hours. Let sit out for 5-10 minutes before serving (so the candy corn isn’t too frozen). Enjoy!

Note: I ended up with a little extra filling this time. If this happens, you can just separate a few more oreos and keep on piping, or you can plan in advance by using a couple more cookies and filling. This would make the filling a little sweeter but not by much.

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