I read somewhere recently that “a diet is when you eat food that makes you sad.” Touche, random internet posting. I couldn’t agree more. Why does ‘eating healthy’ mean eating things that aren’t interesting? Carrot sticks and cucumber cubes are for rabbits! The other night I saw Beyonce in concert and she was dancing around in a blue onesie that was covered in blue rhinestones. I had a lot of different thoughts watching her prance around like the boss that she is, a few of which being: 1) I need to wear more glitter, stat., 2) What did she eat before she went on stage? 3) How can I be her? 4) Will my sister be open to the idea of letting her bridesmaids wear navy blue-sparkly unitards?
Glitter can be immediately implemented into my wardrobe, I’m not so worried about that one. The other thoughts/issues/questions, however, remain to be addressed. The “what did she eat” one stuck with me this morning, however, until I perused instagram and saw that Beyonce is starting a 22 day vegan food challenge. I almost started to cry when I read it. Being a vegan is up there with being allergic to peanuts – HOW DOES ONE SURVIVE? If she can wear that blue one-piece suit pre-vegan diet, that’s all that matters to me. The ‘diet’ (read: limitation) that I put myself on a few months ago is purely sweets-related, because that’s my biggest weakness, is as follows: I can only eat desserts that I’ve made myself. And let me tell you – I’ve been baking up a storm. It’s like some part of my mind said, ‘challenge accepted’ and I’ve since been whipping up treats more than ever before.
The latest baked good? This amazingly delicious salted caramel apple upside cake, make it and be happy forever…until it’s gone.
Recipe For You!
For the sauce and topping
2 cups very thinly sliced apples (3-4 apples)
½ cup salted butter
⅔ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cake
½ cup salted butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
¼ cup milk
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Sea salt for topping
Generously grease a round 9-inch cake pan. Slice the apples with a mandolin to get them really thin, (the original recipe says, ‘thin like paper’…which is not how I cut them). If you’re like most amateur bakers you don’t have a mandolin let alone the skills to get any fruit paper-thin, in this case you just use a paring knife to cut the apples as thin as you can. Line the apples on the bottom of the pan – try to make it look pretty.
Sauce: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and vanilla. Keep over medium heat and cook for ~ 3 minutes until smooth and slightly thickened. Pour the caramel into the greased cake pan on top of the apple slices.
Cake: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Beat the remaining butter and brown sugar until creamy. Add the eggs and milk and mix until incorporated. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Pour the cake on top of the caramel and apple layer in the cake pan. The batter will be thick so make sure to use a spatula to spread it evenly.
Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes (this was the magic number) then place a plate on top and then flip the cake over, tap the top until the cake comes out onto the plate. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve with vanilla ice cream/whipped cream/eat for breakfast/share it/keep it for yourself/sleep on it….all are appropriate. At the end...you'll be Liz Lemon-ing it: "High fiving a million angels."
I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight two things that made my weekend particularly special. First and foremost, this Saturday I went back to the world’s greatest school and my alma mater, the University of Southern California, where I was able to participate in one of the best things to ever happen to sports: college football. While tailgating on campus and inhaling any food I could get my hands on, I was transported to my years as a shamelessly well-fed undergrad when I stumbled upon the Victory Dog. What is this ‘victorious canine’ I speak of? Well, it’s a bacon wrapped hot dog and it’s cooked to perfection on a makeshift grill often times created out of a Superior Grocery Store shopping cart or a market-cart. What is a market-cart, you ask? A term that I made up for the wire carts that people use to tote around their grocery bags from the market. They’re seen all over South Central Los Angeles, as are the Victory Dogs. It's a homemade grill top.
Just like I love my donuts and my Hemsworths, I too love my bacon. Sometimes I spend entire hours of the day thinking about ways I can incorporate bacon into more meals…If you’re wondering, the solution is usually as easy as cooking bacon and eating it as an appetizer while cooking the remainder of the meal. Call it an ‘appe-teaser’ if you will. See what I did there? Appigtizer? That one’s weird, but it’s still kind of clever.
Back to the bacon dogs. I suppose most people call these things ‘Danger Dogs’ because they’re legitimately dangerous to eat – where did these food products come from? What’s in that hot dog? How long has the bacon been sitting out? Are these things cooked under sanitary conditions? When was the last time this chef’s hands were washed? Has anything here been prepared while upholding food-cart health standards? Will this kill me? These are extraneous details that need no answering. Sure, that tube steak might be the last thing you ever eat, but you won't regret it while you're inhaling it. It's delicious and it's a food that stands for something. The victory dog is called just that because they’re the self-proclaimed local treat of the LA Coliseum and the closest thing Los Angeles has to a professional football team – the USC Trojans. I like to think that these victory dogs are named after the victors that represent my school. I also think that having a food item named after you is the highest of honors. Watching SC beat Stanford on Saturday reaffirmed my theory that the bacon wrapped hot dog's name represents USC’s greatness.
(Yes, I feel high and mighty because we’re coming off of a big win this weekend, but in general I feel good about my school 100% of the time. There is no doubt my team’s morale has taken a major turn for the better given some fat that we’ve trimmed from the coaching staff. And the leftovers? Talent, heart, a legacy of champions, and some badass football players. Also, I will take any chance to remind my family that USC is better than the schools they went to – their alma maters include UCLA and Stanford. Insert thumbs down iPhone emoji, followed by kissy face iPhone emoji.).
Back to the dogs again. These things are cooked on tin foil over kerosene flames, or on a hot plate. You can pair them with grilled onions or peppers and often times a hopefully-sealed bottle of water that comes from a strange looking bucket attached to the side of these carts. Ideally, you’re drunk when you eat one (or three) of these. If you’re not drunk you will feel hungover afterwards regardless, but in a good way. Recognized for its tasteful presentation, treacherous preparation, and understated sophistication, this weekend, the victory dog reminded me of all that is good in the world. (Footnote: Actually, according to LA Weekly, it's semi-illegal to prepare these hot dogs with bacon because it's highly likely you will in fact catch a disease if consumed...My motto, however: life's short, eat it.)
What's the second thing that made my weekend so amazing? I bought a phone cover with donuts on it.
After two years on the east coast, I have found myself back in the town I promised myself I would never live in again. The beauty of LA, however, is that you can move just about anywhere within this vast metropolis and feel like you're suddenly on another planet.
Once I graduated from USC, located in the enthralling and vast concrete jungle that is Downtown LA, I stayed another year and moved a couple of blocks north to the Bunker Hill neighborhood. I enjoyed my view of Dodger Stadium and the easy walk to the few things I did in and around the STAPLES Center, but for the most part, when my opportunity to move eastward came, I was sad to say goodbye to the people I loved, but happy to say goodbye to the city.
After a few years on the other side of America, I found myself wondering what to do next. Changes, breakups, shakeups, and makeups forced me to reassess what I wanted in this 25th year of mine and I couldn't quite figure out what that was. Sometimes, when things start to feel settled in matters of head and heart, life decides to pull a fast one on you...I found myself constantly referencing one or two of those oh-so-true, and yet oh-so-overused quotes confetti-ed across Pinterest: "The worst thing we can do in life is compare it to the image of what we think it should be"...that's the gist but the real quote is less wordy and a little more poetic, and "Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen"...that one is verbatim.
So in the spirit of 'something wonderful', and creating a life worth living...this is my attempt to create just that - a wonderful life...One that is full of 3 things - adventure, curiosity, and that which makes me happiest, love.
My love for photography, travel (read: any excursion away from my front door), all things beautiful and, most importantly, food, will be highlighted here. The focus will be in Los Angeles as I get myself out and about and rediscovering this urban city, as well as in my kitchen, where I spend some of my happiest moments. Really though, I tend to go wherever the wind blows me.