11. Those of you that know me are very familiar with my love, love, LOVE of This American Life. I am seriously enamored of almost every episode--except when they talk about Iraq--I know, its very serious and a huge mess, but sometimes you just want to laugh. Last time my hunk (X Marks the Spot) and I were driving back from L.A., we listened to--no lie--something like 13 episodes (13 hour drive!). I am sure he enjoyed it much more than me singing the entire soundtrack to Little Shop of Horrors. However, my favorite moment of all time--even beating out the "Matchmakers" segment about Nubbins, the paddle footed display doll at F.A.O. Schwarz--is listening to my (Not So) Super Secret Other Boyfriend, Ira Glass, talk about how he cried when the O.C. ended (extra points for saying that they could have killed off Marissa in the first season). The episode just released on iTunes this week was no exception--the first story had an eerily familar tone... just listen to the end of the first segment about the girl who thought EVERYONE ate chicken every night for dinner without fail, and you'll understand our family's favorite dinner phrase: What would you like for dinner? A.B.C.! Anything but chicken! Which, then, we probably end up going to Pollo Rey and getting chicken quesadillas.
X Marks the Spot is the Mayor of Babetown but Ira Glass is the Sargent of Arms.
12. Yayyyy!!! Today is July 16 (for those of you who have a lot of free time, like myself, and need a date check). But it also is a very special day because a mere unmentioned years ago, Wisconsin became a better place--and a very significant place in my world! Yup, that was the day that my talented Superwoman bestie Kate was born. We didn't grow up together, technically, but we grew up together--get it? I met this lovely young lady when I came in to interview for a job and I thought "Hey they have a cool chick here with a nose ring--they should hire me!" and she thought, "Hey she looks cool, she has a tattoo!". I got the job and many knitting projects (on her side, 2 on mine), beer trailers, camp stories, ruined surprises and sunburns later, I still get choked up when I think of moving away from her. She is now the prettiest and coolest mama to my favorite baby, Peterly, and her hubby is also one of my best friends. I wish I was with you today! Happy birthday, darling Kate! To celebrate, our food feature is one of Kate's favorite--Coconut!
2 (1 1/2-pound) coconuts
1/4 cup sugar
For cake layers
3 1/3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
7 large egg whites, at room temperature 30 minutes
3 large egg whites, at room temperature 30 minutes
2 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Equipment: 3 (9- by 2-inch) round cake pans
Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.
Pierce softest eye of each coconut with a small screwdriver and collect liquid in 2 separate bowls to sample. If either tastes rancid, discard that coconut and liquid and Start over with another. Strain liquid from 2 coconuts through a dampened-paper-towel-lined sieve into a 1-cup measure and set coconuts aside. (You should have about 3/4 cup liquid. If not, add water.) Bring to a simmer with sugar and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Cool and reserve.
Bake coconuts on lower rack 15 minutes. Leave oven on. Break shells with a hammer, then remove flesh with screwdriver, prying it out carefully. Peel brown membrane from flesh with a vegetable peeler. Coarsely grate enough coconut on large holes of a box grater to measure 5 cups.
Make cake layers:
Butter cake pans, then line bottom of each with a round of parchment paper and butter parchment. Flour pans, knocking out excess.
Sift together flour (3 1/3 cups), baking powder, and salt.
Stir together milk and extracts.
Beat butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. At low speed, add flour mixture in 3 batches alternately with milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until each addition is just incorporated.
Beat egg whites in another large bowl with cleaned beaters at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, then beat until whites just hold stiff, glossy peaks. Stir one third of whites into batter, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
Spread batter evenly in pans and rap pans on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.
Place 2 pans on upper rack and 1 pan on lower rack and bake 20 minutes. Switch position of pans and bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of each cake comes out clean, 10 to 15 minutes more. Cool cakes in pans on racks 5 minutes, then run a knife around edges of pans and invert cakes onto racks. Discard parchment and cool completely, about 1 hour.
Make frosting and assemble cake:
Beat together egg whites, sugar, water, corn syrup, cream of tartar, and salt in a large deep bowl with a handheld mixer (clean beaters if necessary) until combined. Set bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat mixture at high speed until it holds stiff, glossy peaks, 5 to 7 minutes. (Humid weather may necessitate additional beating time.) Remove bowl from heat, then add vanilla and beat until frosting is cooled and very thick, 6 to 10 minutes. Transfer 2 1/3 cups frosting to another bowl and stir in 2 cups coconut to make filling.
Put 1 cake layer on a cake stand or large plate. Brush top with one third of reserved coconut syrup, then spread with half of filling. Repeat with another layer, more syrup, and remaining coconut filling, then top with third layer. Brush top with remaining syrup, then cover cake with remaining frosting and coat with remaining coconut, gently pressing to help it adhere.13. Have you seen Design Sponge? Its a fab blog that features cool design and DIY projects. It is such an inspiration! My other wonderful pal ( I am overusing 'bestie' I think) Tina D got me into it, and that girl knows fab design. My favorite part is the before and afters--I can NEVER turn down a good makeover. I think I am going to work on some projects today--if I get a good one and find my camera, I'll post it! 14. Mama Lama.. Yesterday, I had a request from one of our readers (one of the, um, I think, six of you, and YES, it was my MOM, but hey at least someone's indulging my leisure time activity and she is a fan! Yayy!!!!) to post an outfit for her. Sure, its easy to come up with dream looks for me and X, but Mom is one tough cookie--she IS p-i-c-k-y. Comfort, of course, are important to her and I want her to be able to show off her artistic side and how pretty she is. She doesn't like fussy stuff but she is a bag NUT. As well as birds and fun shoes...