Beware of asking me “How are you?” in the near future, because if you want the cordial and much expected answer, I will lie to you.
I will respond with a reluctant “I’m doing well…” I will offer you an effortless smile and proceed to stare at you awkwardly for a second or two, then divert my gaze to the floor, and then to the wall. I will avoid your eyes because yes, maintaining eye contact for an extended period of time over such superficial chit-chat is challenging for me, whether I’m being completely honest or not. The eyes are the windows to the soul, right?
But I’m not entirely full of deception with that answer. The truth is, I have to keep reminding myself, is that I am doing well. I’m more than well….I’m great in retrospect. I’m up and breathing every day, even if lately it’s been more difficult to do the latter.
“Deep breath in through your nose, hold…..Aaaand let it out….,” I keep telling myself during random points of the day when the flow of oxygen feels unsteady.
It seems easy enough, but ever since the knot in my stomach has been intruding and invading much of that space in body, the simple task that should come so easily to all of us human beings in order to exist and function normally, has been more of premeditated function as opposed to a natural one. And the imaginary and protective shell that I have placed around me to guard and protect me will soon be tested, possibly dented on the surface…but not broken.
And why am I feeling like an atomic bomb ticking away hoping to never implode? Because of big steps and big changes are set in the horizon. It’s all exciting, but intimidating at the same time.
The first time I left home I was seventeen years old. I moved from my hometown in southern Spain where I had lived for my entire life to the capital. I remember walking with my parents during college orientation week and I remember thinking to myself, “From now on, life as I ‘ve known it, will never be the same.” Coming to that realization caused me to have an anxiety attack in the middle of the street. That was the first major change that I was to overcome and that’s the way my body reacted to it.
After a few years in Madrid, I moved to D.C. where I’ve been living for ten years, traveling whenever work permitted me to do so. Before I knew it, Mark and I were calling D.C. our home and we’ve both grown so much and discovered a whole lot about ourselves in this city. And now, we are about to sail into a new chapter with changes flying at us from different angles.
But change is part of life and I must learn how to welcome it and enjoy it, especially if taking such a step has been desired on many levels for a long time.
I don’t know entirely if I’m ready for it, but I know that I must try it. The most prevalent question that I have at the moment, “Is it time to try it now?”
So I made candied ginger in order to try to wrap my head around all of these thoughts that I have. And where does candied ginger fit in with all this talk about change? I don’t know if I feel comfortable announcing such change to even more people than I have already told. At this point, just trust me when I say that this candied ginger plays a small, yet very important part, of such possible change. At this point, trust me that candied ginger will be made from scratch periodically, sliced, and sprinkled over carrot cupcakes as part of this new change. And if you’re interested, I will share more in time to come.
Until then, I will continue to tell myself, “Breath in…breath out…”
- 4 oz (1 cup) fresh ginger, peeled
- 16 oz (2 cups) sugar, plus additional sugar for coating cooked ginger slices
- 16 oz (2 cups) water
- pinch of salt
- Use a peeler to remove the skin from the ginger root. You can also peel the ginger by using a small soup spoon, holding it so that the bowl of the spoon is facing the ginger, and scraping the skin away by using the edge of the spoon. Use a sharp knife to slice the peeled ginger very thinly. Continue peeling and slicing the ginger until you end up with 1 cup of thinly sliced ginger.
- Fill a small saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Drop sliced ginger into the boiling water and cook for 10 minutes. Drain water and candied ginger. Repeat step, boiling ginger once more for 10 minutes. Drain and set ginger aside for later use.
- Combine 2 cups of sugar, water, and salt in a small saucepan. Place sliced ginger in the saucepan along with the sugar, water, and salt. Rest the candied thermometer on the side of the saucepan. Cook ginger in syrup on medium heat until the candied thermometer reads 225 F.
- Drain ginger and syrup. At this point you can either discard the syrup or save it for other purposes.
- Place some sugar in a shallow bowl. Toss cooked ginger in sugar and shake off excess sugar. Spread the ginger slices on a cooling rack over a couple of hours or overnight for them to dry.
You will need a candied thermometer for this recipe, unless you are experienced at calculating and telling temperature without one.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 months.
Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz
This is a strawberry cream cake. It’s made completely from scratch with natural ingredients. However, when I was a child, my Spanish mother made this cake with Cool Whip and boxed yellow cake mix. I never judged her for it.
Who was I to judge this caring woman who loved me unconditionally? Who was I to judge in general? Especially at the age of seven? (Yes, I don’t do too well when witnessing judgmental behavior in others, so I try to avoid that trait in myself). My mother knew what she was doing. I never doubted her actions, even if they involved Betty Crocker’s super moist yellow cake mix. The truth is that I admired her for exploring American short cuts.
This strawberry cream cake was and still is one of my favorite treats to this day, mainly for nostalgic reasons, but also for its flavor and retro appeal. This made-from-scratch version uses heavy whipping cream, fresh strawberries, and powdered sugar for the frosting. If you want to go ahead and blend strawberries right into some Cool Whip instead, then go right ahead! Again, who am I to judge?
I know that strawberries are not in season, but Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse to use strawberries, despite of that. Don’t judge me.
This recipe is very simple and the perfect size for two, leaving extra room for left-overs. How deliciously romantic!
strawberry cream cake
Author: Vanessa Ochotorena
- 3 oz (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) butter, room temperature
- 8 oz (1 cup) sugar
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 2½ oz (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) canola oil
- 2 eggs
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 oz (1¼ cups) all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 6 oz (3/4 cup) whole milk
- Strawberry Whipped Cream:
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1¼ cups ripe strawberries, washed, hulled, and chopped
- Assembling Strawberry Cream Cake:
- two 6" cakes
- strawberry whipped cream
- 7--10 strawberries, washed and hulled
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease two 6" cake pans and cover their bases with parchment paper.
- Combine butter, sugar, and organ zest in a bowl and mix using a hand-mixer on medium-high speed until ingredients are well-combined, for about 30 seconds.
- Add canola oil to mixture and continue mixing on medium-high speed until mixture becomes light and fluffy, about three minutes.
- Add eggs, one by one, followed by the vanilla extract. Turn hand-mixer off.
- Combine all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl. Stir to combine.
- Turn hand-mixer to speed 1. Add about ⅓ of the amount of dry ingredients into the butter-sugar-egg mixture, followed by ⅓ of milk. Continue adding alternations of dry ingredients and milk, until all of the flour mixture and milk have been added. Continue to mix on low just until all ingredients are well-incorporated into the batter.
- Divide the batter evenly among two prepared 6" cake pans. Cook for about 30-45 minutes or until a toothpick that has been inserted in the center comes out clean. Place cakes on a cooling rack for a minimum of 2 hours.
- Strawberry Whipped Cream:
- Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse just until all ingredients are well blended and mixture becomes light pink.
- Pour mixture into a medium-sized bowl and use a hand-mixer to whip cream mixture until it increases in volume and it develops firm peaks. Refrigerate until further use. (Note: Rewhip with a whisk before frosting cake).
- Assembling Strawberry Cream Cake:
- Run a pairing knife along the sides of the cake to release cake from the pan. Invert cake pan onto working surface to unmold cake. Repeat with second cake.
- Place first cake on a cutting board or a cake wheel. Cut cake in half carefully using a serrated knife, doing a back and forth motion until knife has cut through the cake and you end up with two cake layers. Place cakes layers aside for later use and repeat cutting procedure with the second cake.
- Spread a dollop of strawberry cream in the center of the surface where cake will be assembled, such as a cake board. If you don't have a cake board, spread dollop directly onto a cake stand or plate where cake will be served. Place first cake layer, which will act as the base of the cake, over the dollop of cream and press down gently so that cakes sticks to the cream. Spread strawberry cream on the surface of the first cake layer with spatula so that filling reaches the border. Place second cake layer over strawberry cream filling. Press down gently. Spread more strawberry cream filling over the second layer, spreading it evenly so that the filling reaches the border. Finally, repeat the same procedure with the last cake layer. Frost the sides and surface of cake using your favorite decorating technique. If using a cake board, use kitchen shears to trim the exposed sides of cake board and place cake onto cake stand. Place cake in the fridge. (Note: If at any time the strawberry cream filling seems to start getting loose, you can try rewhipping it with a whisk and/or refrigerating until it firms up a bit. Be careful not to over-whip cream, since over-whipped cream can break and turn into butter).
- Meanwhile, use a pairing knife to cut strawberries into thin slices. Cut each slice of strawberry in half. Remove cake from fridge. Place thin slices of halved strawberries vertically along the bottom sides of the cake until the entire base of the cake is decorated. Place slices of strawberry halves horizontally along the top border of the cake until the strawberries decorate the entire border. Cut cake into slices and serve.
Keep cake refrigerated. This particular cake can be served cold or at room temperature. If you prefer to eat it at room temperature, remove cake from fridge 1 hour before serving.
Sometimes a girl has a sweet tooth. And by sometimes, I mean all the time. But for obvious reasons such a girl
can’t shouldn’t spend her days devouring samples of quickbreads, ganache, pie dough, and cake. She shouldn’t, right? Well, most times she does.
She doesn’t know how to feel about it yet. Happy? Guilty? Proud? Sick to her stomach? Sometimes she overdoes the consumption, so yes…all of the above and in that order.
Anyways, in order to satisfy the sweet cravings and not feel like a complete mess afterwards, she decided to create a simple, healthy, and delicious recipe based off a treat her sister-in-law Louise made and offered her one day. Ever since she tried those cashew balls that her sister-in-law made, she wasn’t able to rest her mind and let it go. She simply had to recreate that flavor! She reinterpreted what some of the ingredients were, or what she thought they were.
So this is the recipe the girl wrote.
Oh, and I’m the girl.
Cashew, Date, and Coconut Snack Balls
Author: Vanessa Ochotorena
- 1 cup unsalted roasted cashews
- ¾ cup dates, pitted and roughly chopped
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- Combine all ingredients except for the unsweetened shredded coconut in a food processor. Pulse until ingredients are well mixed and mixture is ground to paste.
- Scoop or pinch paste into small pieces. Roll paste into balls and roll each ball in shredded coconut to cover each one completely.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature.