Now, you all know how much I love making up my own cocktails, but sometimes, the fun is in shaking up something that’s classic, but you had no idea existed. Enter: The Claremont.

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Old Fashioneds are all the rage still here in LA, but I’m not a 70 year old man, so sometimes they’re too harsh and boozy for me to consume. The Claremont is essentially an Old Fashioned with triple sec and a splash of sparkling water, to add a little fruitiness and sweetness to the whole thing. I’m a fan.

  • 2 Maraschino Cherries
  • 2 wedges of citrus (I used tangerines)
  • 1 ounce triple sec
  • 2-5 dashes bitters (I used orange bitters)
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • ice
  • club soda

claremont cocktail ingredients

 

  1. In a sturdy glass, muddle one maraschino cherry and a wedge of citrus with the tripe sec and bitters. Remove the citrus rind once properly pulverized.
  2. Add in the bourbon and fill the glass most of the way with ice.
  3. Top with club soda, and garnish with your second cherry and citrus wedge.

claremont cocktail

I’ve been trying to get much more into garnishing lately, and having a big jar of maraschino cherries (with stems!) is helping significantly. Also helpful: the awesome amount of winter citrus currently available in the grocery store!

Which classic cocktails do you want to see made a little less “harsh”?

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Pound Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Bruleed Bananas

I know, right? I’m not a food stylist by any means, but it looks SO good!

Pound cake is good when paired with fruit or dressed up with booze, but it’s just decadent when smothered in chocolate ganache, a dessert that sounds fancy but is … alarmingly easy to make.

  • 8 ounces heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, in chips or chunks
  1. Put your chocolate into a heat safe bowl.
  2. Pour your heavy cream into a saucepan and heat on low until just boiling.2014-01-26 16.18.04
  3. When the cream is just boiling, take it off the heat and pour it on top of your chunked chocolate, whisking the mixture to evenly melt all the chips.2014-01-26 16.21.00
  4. Keep whisking until chocolate cools to the touch. Then refrigerate until firm– should take a few hours.

To make the brûléed banana chips…

  • 1 banana 
  • 3+ tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 brûlé torch
    1. Thinly slice your banana and place strips on a heat-proof surface.2014-01-27 15.26.07-1
    2. Cover the banana chips generously with sugar.
    3. Torch the banana chips until the sugar is dark brown and crispy. Remember this from high school chemistry: the hottest part of a flame is the tip of the cone *inside* the flame. (This makes sense. Trust me.) Brûléing takes a lot longer than you think it will, just FYI. Let the sugary bananas cool before you try to touch them!
    4. If you don’t have a brûlé torch, don’t despair! You can broil sugar-coated bananas in an oven or toaster oven to the same end. It just takes a little while longer and is SIGNIFICANTLY less badass.

2014-01-27 15.30.15Now, I’m sure there’s a way to artistically stack all of this together so it doesn’t come out looking like a big blop of chocolate. I… I did not do that.

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It looks like mush. But it’s tasty, chocolatey mush. With bananas.

I still have loads of pound cake leftover (party at my house!), but after today, I’m going to be getting back to the usually scheduled program and bring you a Cocktail Friday post. Did you like this week’s dedication to a single dessert? What should be next? (I think I have at least one vote for bread pudding!)

If your vote isn’t for pound cake, what do *you* think should be the trending dessert of 2014?

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home made pound cake with port cherries

 

Now, pound cake with jam is a simple pleasure. What if you want to kick it up to a Grown Up Experience?

Easy. All you need are some dried cherries and some ruby port.

It’s simple: rehydrate your dried cherries (or plums or raisins, or any other dark red fruit) by soaking them in port for an hour, then spoon the resulting goodness onto your pieces of pound cake.

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If you’re concerned about buying port, don’t be. It’s kind of the most amazing wine to keep on hand. Port is relatively inexpensive (you can find a fine one for $20) and fruity, and tastes great when reduced or boiled down into a sauce. Also, as long as you keep it stoppered tightly and in the fridge, it stays good for months. I used a bottle of Daniel Gehrs Fireside port that I’ve had in my fridge for a few weeks.

The cherries get a nice, boozy kick, but I didn’t end up pouring a cup of port wine on top of my cake to get that color. Instead, I just drizzled a little bit of grenadine syrup on top to get a bit of fruity flavor without all the drunkenness of high-percentage vino on top.

Now, if you’re trying to be a total badass, you can re-hydrate your cherries in brandy, too, and then flambé the brandy for a bit of craziness. I did not do this, as I value my eyebrows. I’m just saying, it’s an option. 

home made pound cake with port cherries

 

This is actually the first time I’ve ever used alcohol in a dessert, and I really dug it! Maybe next time, I’ll add a little bit of chocolate to play off the depth of the port, too :-)

How often do you make desserts with wine or spirits? And don’t forget to enter my give-away!

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So. In case you couldn’t tell, I’ve been trying to ramp up The Happy Home and trying to make it more of a business than just a side project. It has– as you may imagine– been difficult.

From give-aways being witty on Twitter to outstanding (if I do say so myself) daily content, there’s only so much you can do to get people to pay attention. Despite the fact that I work as a copywriter and social media person for a living… I’ve been having one hell of a time trying to get any traction for myself.

I met with my friend Max last week– a bigger social media guru than me– about things I could do to really get things going. He’s proud of my numbers and thinks I have good thing going here… but he says there’s one thing I have to do more of to get people biting.

Pictures of myself.

“Embrace the selfie!” he says. “I’m trying to be as platonic about this as I can be… you shouldn’t be wary of putting yourself out there, as much as you can.”

It certainly holds up to scrutiny, this idea that pictures of me (especially ones where I’m in slightly more revealing clothing than my usual skinny jeans and tee shirts) do really well in social media.

Ten comments on Instagram, when I usually get four. Tops.

23 likes, which I’m going to ASSUME are for me, and not the chow chow.

35 likes. I think this bright coral dress + headless me might be the most popular photo I’ve ever posted.

But you’ll notice that my face is missing from pretty much all of these. It’s not that I think I’m ugly or anything, I think I’m basically pretty. It’s more that I’m 1) not “LA” pretty and 2) never been particularly popular, so why would that change on the Internet?

“LA” pretty is a very specific kind of pretty. The girls here are tiny– like, shorter than 5′ tall and weigh less than 90 pounds. I suppose that’s what looks good on camera, but I’m from the greater New York area, where models run free like gazelles on the plains. I’m that kind of height– 5’10″– and there’s a certain, well, dominance of pretty that’s appreciated on the East Coast. East Coasters, New Yorkers, they like tall, powerful women. LA likes tiny, submissive women. Which I definitely am not.

Also, the Internet, and blogging and general, is high school. And the women who do incredibly well in blogging are usually… approachable. They photograph well. They were the people who had candid shots in their high school yearbooks. I did not. I was too busy running things like the school’s poetry anthology. (#nerdalert) I don’t voluntarily put myself in front of camera lenses, especially after my foray into modeling in late high school and early college basically fell flat on its face. I had the height, what I didn’t have was a face anyone wanted to take a picture of. So it goes.

As luck would have it, this conversation happened EXACTLY when I had dinner and drinks with my friend– who runs social media for jane. cosmetics. 2014-01-27 15.21.41-1The perk of working in cosmetics is that you are overburdened with free stuff. Like, eyeliner just shows up in your bag like receipts show up in the purses of normal people. She comes bearing gifts– more product than I could ever hope of putting on my bare-ass face for the future of my life.2014-01-27 15.21.29-1

So, I picked and prodded through the goodie bag and took some stuff I thought I might use– a BB cream here, mascara. And the rest? The rest is for you beautiful ladies (or gents. I don’t judge).2014-01-27 15.21.23-1

Four lipglosses and a gloss that changes color based on your pH. Seven powder eyeshadows and two cream eyeshadows. A brush kit. Eye primer, eyeliners in every color, blush and bronzer. The list goes on. Want to join me in a beauty revolution? Those of us who hate getting our pictures taken can rejoice in a company with a tagline I can really get behind: confidence comes in many colors. Just in time for Valentine’s Day :-)

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If you follow me on Instagram, prepare for an onslaught of selfies :-)

And use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. I’ll announce winners next week!

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If you’re looking for the simplest way to eat your pound cake, I say: as brunch, with a cup of tea, and a little dollop of fruit preserves.

pound cake with bonne maman jam

 

I mean, can you get any easier or more relaxing? Considering that pound cake stays for a few days, you can have it for breakfast or dessert for several days straight. I feel like it’s the perfect little bit of something sweet when you need it.

pound cake with strawberry jam

 

We don’t go through a lot of jelly or jam in our house, so when we do buy it, we buy nice stuff. We have two jars of Bonne Maman jams and fruit preserves in our house at all times– usually Orange Marmalade and Strawberry Preserves.

Because Bonne Maman is all natural, it gets a very soft consistency when you stir it up– it flows like a syrup with just a few stirs. I poured it over a 1″ slice of pound cake, and then topped it with a few teaspoons of powdered sugar. Paired with a strong-brewed Earl Grey, this is such a lovely way to start the day.

home made pound cake with jam

 

 

David thinks so, too. Normally, we try to have somewhat decadent brunches on the weekend– eggs and toast, with fruit and maybe even pancakes if we’re feeling super indulgent. But because this is so simple and easy to make, we can get a nice little bit of sweetness on a regular day.

What’s your easy, go-to weekday breakfast?

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Last year it was cronuts; before that, cupcakes and popsicles and donuts had their times to shine. This year, as I’ve expressed across all my social media channels, I’ve declared this: 2014 will be the year of the pound cake.

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Like cupcakes and donuts before it, pound cake is familiar, yet utterly adaptable. It’s easy to make and horribly, monstrously bad for you. (I was joking with David as I was mixing up the batter that I should make a pin with the caption “Paleo Pound Cake!” and then just link it to a page that has a .gif of me laughing at anyone who fell for the joke.)

2014-01-26 11.52.38-1

 

It gets its name from the fact that it literally takes a pound of flour and a pound of butter to make it. You can do a billion things with it, and if you bring pound cake to a party, not a soul on Earth will go, “Ugh. Really? Pound cake?”

This weekend, I made one from scratch and am dedicated to showing you a few easy and decadent ways to make pound cake the most freaking awesome dessert of 2014. To start, you’re going to need a loaf. Obviously, ain’t no one gonna do it better than Martha.

  • 3 1/4 cups AP flour
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 pound butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 9 large room-temperature eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 325. Butter your loaf pans– this should make two loaves or, like I did, one loaf and one 8″x8″ pan. 
  2. In a large bowl, mix together your flour and salt, and set aside.
  3. Cream together your butter and sugar for as long as you can stand–the more whipped it is, the better your pound cake will get. Trust.2014-01-25 17.33.00
  4. Scrape down the sides of your bowl, then add your vanilla.
  5. Lightly beat all nine of your eggs in a separate bowl. Can I say: you’re going to need a bigger bowl than you think you will for this. Again: trust. Once they’re beaten, add them to your buttersugar in four separate batches, keeping your mixer on low the entire time. Mix until combined.
  6. On your mixer’s lowest speed, slowly add the flour/ salt mixture, about 1 cup at a time. Stop mixing as soon as the last bit of flour is incorporated. Spoon the batter into your prepared pans and then, well, thwack them against the counter to settle the batter. Smooth out the tops, then put them in the oven.
  7. Bake 8″ square pans for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean; bake the loaf pan for about 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Let the pans cool to the touch, then invert the loaf onto a wire rack to cool completely. Store under plastic wrap or in an airtight container.

The pound cake is delightful by itself, but here’s a quick preview of the things to come:

pound cake collage

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Not that kind. Get yo’ head out of the gutter.

No, I’m taking a minute to sit and write and think. These past few weeks have been exhausting– I’m working, but from home– and David was concerned about the fact that the only time I was leaving the house was to walk the dogs. That’s not good for anyone, but especially for me, who has some shut-in tendencies.

Couple that with the fact that working full-time again has cut into my Doin’ Stuff time. I’m not much of a savor cook to begin with, but we’ve been relying on take-out and frozen pizza for most of our meals the last two weeks. That’s especially not good for lupies like myself, and I woke up this morning feeling like a creaky bag of rocks.

Chronic illness is the strangest thing. I have to keep reminding myself that just because I don’t look sick it doesn’t mean that I’m well. Case in point: we went on a big Trader Joe’s run this morning and some daffy old broad ran over my foot while on the great hunt for free range ginger or whatever. You know how people get in Trader Joe’s– it’s like that store brings out the yuppie animal in everyone

High school, Trader Joe’s in Silverlake, same thing.

Well, lady, I know I look young and fit and should get out of your way because you’re old, but guess what? My foot still smarts. *I* feel like I’m 60 and have the joint damage to rival your arthritic old bones, so maybe you should be more considerate?

Grr.

Instead of yelling out in pain, I just got out of her way. Because I’m not going to start a scene or get snippy with a Senior. It’s not my style. Instead I came home, put on slippers, and have been making and shooting a whole bunch of cocktails for an upcoming e-book.

When the going gets tough, the tough get artsy fartsy.

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