Wednesday, March 31, 2010

piece of cake

These beautiful days have me craving warm-weather food. Last Sunday, for a family dinner, I made a Pisticci-inspired coconut cake with cream cheese frosting -- from scratch. The process didn't turn out to be a piece know. The recipes were both fairly simple, but by the time we'd (yep, the whole family pitched in!) figured out how to shave the coconut, my sunny mood was overcast. But then I tasted it.

I don't want to discourage you from making coconut cake for, say, Easter -- but if you decide to, make sure to schedule plenty of time. I'd probably prep the coconut first. Cooking Light's directions do a great job of explaining how to drain and crack it (but, unfortunately, they aren't online yet, so I suggest these):
  • Draining: After heating the coconut, take it, along with a hammer and a clean nail, outside so as not to ruin your in-laws' brand-new granite counter tops. Then find the eyes of the coconut (it has three indentations in a clover-leaf shape). Balance the coconut on a hard surface, and gently hammer the nail into each of the three eyes. You'll need to wiggle the nail around a bit in each hole so there's enough air circulation for drainage. Once the holes are a quarter-inch wide, let the coconut water drip into a measuring cup. When the water stops flowing, shake the coconut and listen for more. If you hear splashing, you might need to widen the holes. When the coconut is dry, pour the water through a sieve to remove any bits of shell or coconut hair.
  • Cracking: Wrap a clean dish towel around the coconut, then bludgeon it with a hammer. You'll hear a dull crack when the shell breaks. You may need to pry it open with the hammer's claw. Rinse off the coconut when you get inside.
...But Cooking Light stops there, leaving you to your own devices for shucking, shaving, and toasting. Here's some help:
  • Shucking: With a sharp knife, score the coconut meat every couple of inches. Then, insert a fork between the shell and the light-brown papery stuff on the meat and pry off the meat piece by piece.
  • Shaving: If you want smaller shreds, use a veggie peeler to trim off the light-brown papery stuff, then use a hand-crank grater. If you'd rather have wide curls, use a veggie peeler -- no need to remove the brown stuff.
  • Toasting: Sprinkle coconut shavings onto a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in a preheated, 350-degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally for even browning.

The trouble is worth it (especially if you use the tips above). Enjoy!

What are your go-to spring recipes?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

that's more like it

It was a lovely day for a drive, and luckily I had somewhere to go: My aunt, Lonnie, and I met at Millie's in Delavan to get our fix of some of the world's most delicious apricot crepes. On this sunny morning, Mother Nature seemed to be making up for last weekend's thoroughly unfunny practical joke. Along I-43, the trees on the rolling hills are starting to take on the yellow-green hue that comes a few weeks before their leaves pop, and the gardens at Millie's are full of little jewels. Perhaps the best springtime sign of all? That delicious earthy smell in the air. Ah, it's good to be able to breathe again.

What's your favorite sign of spring?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

spring snow

Happy spring! In Wisconsin, we woke to find a fresh white blanket covering our yards after enjoying a few days of no-coat weather. As I write this, the snow is melting and we're headed for temperatures in the 50s early next week. Can't wait for these little daffodils to bloom. I suppose that will be a much more genuine sign of spring than a note on the calendar.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

st. patrick's week

What kind of sister would I be if I didn't rave about the show I saw last night? Amy and I went to watch Andrew's band, The Scrubbers, play at Derry Hegarty's right after the Milwaukee St. Patrick's Day Parade. (Since the people of Milwaukee are exceedingly proud of their sort-of Irish heritage, the commemoration of St. Patrick extends beyond March 17 to take up about a week's time.)

The place was packed, but it was clear that a lot of the revelers had never been to a show like this before (case in point: I got yelled at for standing in front of someone's table...what was this? A dinner theater?). But after a couple more rounds of green beer, some original masterpieces, crazy renditions of Irish folk tunes, and Gogol Bordello covers, much of the crowd -- including the crabby guy at the table -- was full-on dancing.

If you ever get the chance, check out The Scrubbers (promise I'm not just saying this...). They're super-fun. They've got two shows on Wednesday: one in downtown Milwaukee at noon and one at O'Marro's Public House in Oshkosh that evening.

Oh, and what kind of sister-in-law would I be if I didn't plug another (great) local Irish band, Dublin O'Shea? Keith's group is playing a lot this week too -- they'll be at the Delafield Brewhaus on the 17th. Can't wait for a show with both brothers on the same bill.

Meanwhile, sláinte.

Friday, March 5, 2010

in with the new

Happy March, everybody! days ago at this time, we were still Manhattanites. We're pretty much settled here in Wisconsin, and life no longer feels like a vacation. This week has been a whirlwind for us, and we've checked off a lot on our to-do list; a number of "firsts" among them -- our first car is probably the biggest (although my Nordic Track debut seemed monumental too -- whoever compared it to an elliptical has clearly never tried one).

Even though we test-drove a number of makes and models, we just couldn't stop thinking about the sweet Civic at CarMax. It feels and looks nearly identical to the car I was so sad to leave when we moved to New York -- a great transition for me after not having driven for about three years (don't worry, I didn't forget need to pull over if you see me coming).

The car (and the Nordic Track) aren't the only new things happening here: Ian's hooked himself a job and I've made a substantial freelancing connection. Before we know it, we'll be back in the 50-hours-a-week world, and will look back to today and think, We thought that was everyday life? I'd better go enjoy the freedom while I's supposed to be a gorgeous weekend.

It's good to be back!