Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cake of the Week: Lime Leches Cake

A while back I posted about a de-freaking-licious Tres Leches Cake. And in light of the impending Cinco de Mayo (omgggg it’s already almost May!!!), I have a slightly-simpler, possibly even more delicious variation to share: Lime Leches Cake.

I can't claim to be much in touch with my Hispanic roots, and I know that Cinco de Mayo is not really a holiday in Mexico, but being the California girl that I am, give me any excuse to eat enchiladas (or burritos, or tacos, or chimichangas), dip some chips in salsa, and finish it off with some sort of super-sweet dessert, and I am in!

I think that limes often get sold short, pigeon-holed in their too-common role as a throw-away green garnish. So let’s take a moment to appreciate them. They’re like lemons, but sassier. And I looove lime-y things – key lime pie, drinks with lime, lime cake, lime cookies.

I’m calling this creamy concoction a Lime Leches Cake (taking out the “tres”), because I switched lime juice for the milk. The lime flavor is definitely strong enough to taste, but not overpower, and even without the milk the cake itself is deliciously spongey and good. Instead of the traditional whipped cream topping, I topped mine with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You could, of course, do this the normal tres leches way – any way you want!

You could also halve the recipe below (2 eggs instead of 5) to make an 8x8-inch cake, for a smaller something delicious.

Lime Leches Cake

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 5 whole eggs
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3  cups lime juice
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • ¼ cups heavy cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or butter a 9 x 13 inch pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. 
  3. Separate eggs into two medium-sized bowls (whites and yolks).
  4. Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in lime juice and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.
  5. Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. While still beating, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.
  6. Fold egg white mixture into the batter (of yolks and flour) very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.
  7. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, and allow to cool completely in the pan.
  8. For the tres leches: Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork many times. Slowly drizzle all the milk mixture over the cake, trying to get all over and around the edges too. 
  9. Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for at least 30 minutes. 
  10. Serve cold, topped with vanilla ice cream (or whipped cream topping) and enjoy!

Printable recipe. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Race Report: American Odyssey Relay 2013

On Thursday night we left DC, drove to Gettysburg, and proceed to participate in the 200-mile American Odyssey Relay Run Adventure…and it WAS quite the adventure!

Before the start.
Last September, twelve semi-connected almost strangers got together to run the Ragnar Relay from Cumberland, MD,  to DC  and it was pretty much the most fun thing ever. Well we’re definitely no longer strangers, but we are still runners and still awesome…so we did it again! I wasn't sure if the second time around would be as much fun –  this was a different course, a different organization, and a few new mystery team members, but it was just as good and possibly better!

Unlike Odysseus, it didn’t take us 10 years to get back home, but a solid 24 hours, 28 minutes, and 35 seconds was plenty of time…plenty of time to get us first place that is!!! That’s right – the Mother Pluckers won the Open Mixed category (6 men, 6 women), and placed 4th overall like the champions we are!!!

At 11:15 am on Friday, SpeedyKate led us off from in a hotel parking lot in Gettysburg. 

The start is staggered, with the slowest teams starting earlier, and the faster teams starting later (based on your own time estimation). The weather was perfect for running, and the course through the country and battlefields and along the C&O Canal was beautiful.

Two hundred miles, 36 legs, a lot of van snacks, far too few showers, and very little sleep later we ended up at the Waterfront in southwest DC.

But many many things happened before we got there…

Each team has two vans, so runners 1-6 do their legs while 7-12 chill out, then they hand off the slap bracelet to van two and have their rest time. But as the (self-designated) “official” team timekeeper, I switched back and forth between the two vans, meaning I got the FULL Mother Plucker experience!

(A brief note on our name: “to pluck” – v. to pass another runner: I plucked 12 that leg! Or Great job! How many plucks? Or See that guy up ahead? He’s the last one to pluck!!!)

As I said, the course was beautiful.

We ran through the battlefields at Antietam.

Mike ran up a mountain with 10% grade at about 6-minute pace...like a champion. (Many many high-fives were had by all.)

Robin went in for the pluck at the very end of her first leg!

There were some good hand-offs...and a few fumbles...

There was also A LOT of running in the dark (which is not particularly photogenic)  running in the glow of your headlamp through battlefields, campsites, and many many deer (? hopefully!) eyes watching you through the trees...

Saturday morning was all along the canal...which is pretty but boooooring to run.

I screamed a lot very loudly for everyone. (In what other context is it ok to yell absolutely absurd things at runners out the window of a moving vehicle with Girl Talk blasting? None.)

Our team averaged 7:20 pace. Which is pretty freaking impressive!!!  As I already said (and will never get tired of saying), we won our category, beating the 49 other Open Mixed teams, and placed 4th overall out of 135 teams.

And because running for 24 hours together wasn’t enough, we met up again on Sunday for an epic celebration brunch at Zengo. Everyone smelled better but felt worse (the stairs! SO HARD). And over many many many small plates and brunchy beverages we re-lived the experience and our own impressiveness. 

Bottom line is that I like all these people and it was a great weekend. The only question is, who/where will we pluck next?


Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Most Beautiful Half Marathon

This is a guest post by Sister2.

I’ve spent the last five hot months in Thailand, training to run a half marathon in support of Room to Read, a non-profit that promotes literacy and gender equality by working with local partners to provide books/uniform/transportation/school fees, build schools and libraries, and encourage girls' participation in education.

My original plan was to race in the Phu Quoc Half Marathon in Vietnam on May 11th, but the cost of getting to Phu Quoc Island and the challenges of training while traveling through three different countries (not to mention the fact that it is “burning season” in southeast Asia, so going on a run means sucking down smokey oxygen) led me to change my plan and create my own race.

After my boyfriend (Eric) and I finished our semester teaching English in Thailand, we headed to Laos. Luang Nam Tha turned out to be the most perfect place for my “race.” We rented a motorbike the day before the run to measure out 13.1 miles around Luang Nam Tha, and found that the course we had in mind was exactly 13.1 miles. Perfect!

I woke up to a cool morning (so refreshing in southeast Asia) and walked to my start line in the middle of the town. Of course this wasn't an official race, just me running with Eric biking alongside, but I received some cheers and smiles at the start since runners in this part of the world are pretty rare and Eric and I are always a spectacle.

I turned out of town into a country road surrounded by rice patties and watermelon fields with the jungle-covered mountains surrounding them. Next was a turn into a small dirt road that wound through a few different villages where I passed by some schools – very basic structures with a blackboard, so I only really knew they were schools because of their signs outside.

"Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to the cost of an ignorant nation" (Walter Cronkite). And it turns out, the cost of a Room to Read library is only $5,000. Make your investment in a more intelligent world!
I turned off the dirt road to cross to the other side of the valley and was lucky enough to run into an unofficial support crew of seven adorable little boys on bikes. They mimicked the English words and phrases we called  out to them, which showed me how ready these kids are to learn. I waved goodbye to my support crew at the 10-mile mark (an old temple that was bombed in the '60s). They turned one direction to ride back to their village, and I looked towards my finish line.

I finished outside if the Luang Nam Tha secondary school in exactly two hours. Obviously I wasn't running to break any records, but I think I was smiling almost the entire run. It was such a beautiful course in a remarkable country that is full of smiling kids! My run inspired me even more to do what I can to give the children of Laos (and every country Room to Read works in) an opportunity to receive a quality education.

This was the first time I ran a race for a cause and what a race it was! I would absolutely recommend other runner to do the same.

And if you would like to donate to Room to Read (please do!), go here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cake of the Week: Raspberry Coconut Layer Bars

Friday, if you recall, was kind of a stressful everything-is-terrible-and-sad sort of day. And from my perspective, there is only one reasonable and constructive way to respond to this – bake something amazing!

I always find baking relaxing. It requires enough thought and focus that you really can’t multitask it without running the risk of accidentally forgetting baking soda, or switching salt for sugar, or ooh whoops that was supposed to be 300 degrees and not 375??? It is active and yet not challenging (unless you’re whipping that cream by hand), and it results in something edible and hopefully delicious to share.

With Boston news on in the background, and thunder and lightning and tornado-style wind outside my windows, I calmly cracked a can of sweetened condensed milk, took out my aggression crushing a sleeve of graham crackers, and layered up these bars that may sound like too much, but trust me they are just right.

Let’s talk about the layers: graham cracker crust, coconut and sweetened condensed milk, raspberry jam, toasted almonds, and semi-sweet chocolate.

Like I said, these are intense little bars of awesomeness, and come with a hefty warning: FOR SHARING. I may or may not have eaten 4 on Saturday alone (breakfast, post-lunch, post-dirt biking, dessert – nothing makes a crushed foot feel better like coconut!).

On a scale from one to you-will-not-regret-these, go make them NOW. If someone would be so kind as to deliver a can of sweetened condensed milk to my door, I would make another batch immediately…

Raspberry Coconut Layer Bars

Printable recipe.
Recipe adapted from The Cutting Edge of Ordinary
  • 1 2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs (1 sleeve of graham crackers, crushed)
  • ½ stick butter (melted)
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1- 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup seedless raspberry jam (about half a jar – up to you how much jam you want)
  • ¾ cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted in the oven
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (and/or white chocolate chips)
Jess: I wish I were that coconut/could install a can of SCM in my shower.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (To toast the almonds, I put them in a cake pan in the oven while it was preheating – if you do this make sure you check on them so they don’t burn.)
  2. Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar in a bowl. Press firmly into bottom of a greased and parchment paper-lined 7 x 11 inch pan (Ok so the original recipe says to use a 9 x 13 inch pan, but that just seemed too big so I went with something slightly smaller. You could also do a 9x9 and make them thicker and/or make a few extra mini ones in a cupcake pan). 
  3. Spread coconut over the top, and then pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over top. 
  4. Bake for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool completely on wire rack. 
  5. Spread jam over cooled top, sprinkle with nuts. 
  6. Melt the chocolate chips in a small bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds and then at 10 second intervals until just melted. I used a fork to drizzle the chocolate over the bars. 
  7. Cool completely before cutting. 
  8. Welcome to your newest addiction!

Printable recipe. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Weekend Report: What's the worst that could happen? (Dirt Biking Edition)

I'm not even kidding guys – I went dirt biking this weekend! Are you horrified by the prospect of my pedestrian self controlling any vehicle? Terrified by the thought of me riding a 250-lb. motorcycle on grass and asphalt and dirt and through puddles and around turns and curves and banked curves??? Me too...but it was so much fun!

Saturday morning my friend Andy and I left DC early to drive to the great state of New Jersey. We escaped the city and had a lovely car ride (trip theme songs: this and this).

We stopped off in Andy's college town (New Brunswick) for some stromboli from Stuff Yer Face, and I’m not going to lie, it was pretty amazing. Stromboli, for those of you who don’t know (I didn’t) is like a cross between and sandwich and a calzone – i.e. sooo good.

Then on to Somerville, where we met Andy’s friends, loaded dirt bikes onto trailers, and headed to some trails for Operation Mollie Learns To Dirt Bike (there will be practical application for this…details to come!).

The good news is that I had three very good teachers. The bad news is that we had a quad and two racing dirt bikes, i.e. waaaay harder to ride than pretty much anything else. I started on the quad to learn the clutch and gears situation (I don’t know how to drive manual so teach me like I’m a little bit stupid please!), and oooh man guys it was FUN.

(Keep in mind that I used to be a downhill ski racer, so though it’s been buried under years of distance running, there’s still a little bit of fearlessness in me…I really like adrenaline and speed a lot.)

I moved up to a dirt bike, which was hard, but not as hard as I expected! I drove in a straight line a few times, then progressed to practicing turning. The tricky part was that I was learning on a big dirt bike, so getting on was a bit challenging, and I couldn’t stop without falling over. Also I was very very very thoroughly warned that if I pulled back on the throttle too hard the bike would literally shoot into the air. Ummm no thanks!

Once I felt comfortable turning left in a parking lot, we headed over to the trails for some real dirt biking. It had poured on Friday night, which meant MUD!

The trails were a lot harder than the parking lot and turns are HARD. The one I was practicing on was banked and sharp – definitely not a beginner turn. The first time I went over the bank and crashed because I wasn’t turning enough. The second time I crashed because I was going too slow. The third time was a combination of the two. The fourth time I psyched myself up to do it right, went in with more speed, leaned into the turn, and almost made it until the very end when everything went disastrously wrong. The bike landed on me, and the pedal went into my foot (I was wearing hiking boots, but still) – OUCH!

(Not me, obviously. But that's the end of the turn!)
I took a breather, considered my options (quitting or winning), and got back on. Now things were personal – I had to make it around that turn. And I did! I rode around in figure-8s for a while  – around that turn (#win), over a jump (don’t worry I was not getting any air), around another sharp turn sans bank, and back to do it all again.

(Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of me actually on a dirt bike...but I was a bit distracted by the actual riding part.)

We drove back to DC that night, tired and dirty but pretty happy about the whole experience. Unfortunately my foot was not so good on Sunday...but nothing a bucket of ice and a cupful of fro-yo won't fix! Plus I get to tell people I hurt myself dirt biking, which sounds sooo much cooler than telling people I hurt myself running relatively slowly in a straight line (as my injuries usually are).

Friday, April 19, 2013

Best of the Week #101

I am wearing Boston today, and it’s not too late for you to put on some BU/Sox/Celts/Bruins/whatever gear you have “as a small way to show unity and support for all of the victims and their families of this past Monday's unspeakable act.” Still sending my love to Boston!

This Best of the Week post will not be a round-up of Boston news…because I know that’s just too much for me and possibly for you. But on a slightly more positive note, “Photos: Afghans send sympathy and love to Boston, whose pain they know all too well.”

  • Documentary filmmaker Beth Murphy, a Bostonian and marathoner working in Afghanistan, took the photos for “To Boston. From Kabul. With Love” after receiving a text from her husband about the bomb blasts that killed three and injured scores of others near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. His messages assuring her that he and their young daughter were okay, Murphy wrote in a blog post, reminded her of the many similar message she herself had sent during her trips to Afghanistan.
And on a less positive note, from The Onion (note: satire!!!), “Jesus, This Week.”
  • “Seriously, can we wrap this up already?” Maryland resident James Alderman told reporters, echoing the thoughts of all 311 million Americans, who have just about reached their weekly goddamned quota for carnage, misery, confusion, heartbreak, and rage. “Because, you know, I’m pretty sure we’ve all had our hearts ripped out of our chests and stomped on enough times for one seven-day period, thank you very much.”
Ok moving on and bringing a bit of levity into our lives...

Awwww happiness. "27 Dogs That Will Do Anything For Kids."

Pretty cool: "Resistance Isn't Futile."

  • For the second straight year, amateur and professional photographers from around the world have submitted images for Washington-based NGO Freedom House's "Images of Freedom and Repression." Out of hundreds of submissions, Freedom House has selected 25 to be auctioned at an event in Washington, D.C. on April 18. Three photos were selected as winners. Here is a selection of the images, which capture the daily struggles and aspirations of people living in some of the world's most repressive countries. 
This strikes me as a total win-win. You quit. Your office gets cake. What more could anyone want? “How to Quit Your Job With Cake.”

Haha go Jezebel, saying exactly how I feel better than I can say it myself: "F$@# Cupcakes."
I asked Buzzfeed Food's Rachel Sanders how she felt the cupcake had impacted U.S. culture. "This is getting a little deep, but I believe they tap into our American cultural tendency toward selfishness and emotional isolation," she typed to me via Gchat. "Like, what other culture needs a kind of cake that is literally impossible to share; if you even try it just disintegrates into crumbs and sadness? You are going to be alone forever, so go ahead and carbo-load."
Thursday was National High Five Day, which is weird, but ooook sure why not?

PSA MUST READ: From a Reddit thread entitled, What are some useful secrets from your job that will benefit customers?
  • When purchasing items on the internet (especially airline tickets), use incognito mode on your browser.
  • We use your own cookies against you: raising the price on tickets the more times you check, as you shop around for better deals. That way you’ll think the price is going up or that seats are being actively sold – thus increasing your urgency to buy, and punishing you for trying to get a good deal.
I’m sorry but this is too funny.

From the Twitter-verse, thank you Philosoraptor
  • Mindblowing ™ ‏@RealFactsOnLife4m: Round Pizza. Square box. Triangle slices. I'm confused.
  • Also: "You look tired" pic.twitter.com/JobZ8xYpqz
I grew up with backyard chickens and I’m pretty sure they’re the easiest “pets” ever. And they lay eggs. Win and win. “Pros and Cons of Raising Backyard Chickens.”

HAHAHA. Time to get ready for Beach Season?

How I Exit Awkward Situations (and how I feel about this week):

Again, love to Boston!!!