November 2, 2014

Kitchen Goddess: Good Friends, Good Food, and Shakshuka

Hello November! Thanksgiving will be here faster than we can imagine. Through the month, I'll bring you more cooking posts than ever before so you, my lovely readers, can have the best Thanksgiving meal possible.
There's always been something about sharing good food with good friends. One thing I love about my lady is that whoever we meet, if we get along, our first instinct is to invite them over for dinner. Lauren made a friend through one of her classes, and we invited her over for some Shakshuka. I also invited over one of my best friends to share! Now this dish probably looks familiar from those fancy cooking shows, but I promise, it's not as complicated as it appears. Shakshuka is simply a baked egg dish that is incredibly versatile. It originated in North Africa, and like many traditional foods from that region, made it over to Israel where it makes for a spicy start to the day as a breakfast food.
The composition is simple, and you can add/subtract as many different items and flavors as there are under the sun. It begins with a tomato sauce base that comes together easily in a pan. You crack eggs into the sauce and simmer, then the whole thing is moved into the oven. Simple enough, right? Let's get started.

Enough Olive Oil to grease a skillet
One Large Onion (I used two small onions. Same thing, right?)
One Yellow Bell Pepper - Sliced
About 3 Garlic Cloves
Smoked Paprika
Chipotle Chile Pepper
Cayenne Pepper
1 28 oz can Chopped Tomatoes - With Juice
2 tbs Tomato Paste
One Package Feta Cheese
6-8 Large Eggs
Cilantro for garnish

1. Begin by sautéing the onions and the yellow bell pepper in the olive oil until they become browned and tender. Add a shake of paprika, chipotle chile pepper, turmeric, and cayenne pepper to the onions so that they really absorb the flavor and transfer it to the rest of the dish. 

2. Add the salt, pepper, chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. Combine and let simmer. Stir in the feta cheese and combine.

3. Crack eggs directly into the pan, atop the tomato base you have prepared. Let cook for a few minutes on the stove before popping the whole pan in the oven. 350 degrees for roughly 15-20 minutes for firm eggs.

4. Garnish with Cilantro, a touch of salt and a touch of pepper. Serve with a traditional loaf of toasted bread for dipping. Enjoy!

As a Thanksgiving dish, this would certainly be interesting. I wouldn't rule it out, especially if you want to add some spice to the traditional layout of the meal. I would certainly love the person who would break this out for their guests! Lauren whipped up a little salad of her own to accompany this meal. You can find the link here for the warm Spinach salad with Sweet Potato and Smoky Pecans! 

Until next time,

October 28, 2014

Goddess Goodies: Jellied Brain Cupcakes

I have had these cupcake molds about as long as I have had the tea-cup molds I used for my Earl Grey Cupcakes, I've just been waiting for the right moment to break them out. Halloween is always the right moment for jellied brains, right?

For these cupcakes, I decided a bone-white and red-velvet mix would be more than theatrically suitable for my purposes. I used boxed cake mix, but instead of following the exact directions/proportions on the back of the box I did the following: I replaced the oil with butter and doubled the amount, replaced the water with milk, and added an extra egg. I blended with my hand mixer until fully combined.

I kept the mix separated until it was about to go into the cupcake liner. I filled the bottom of the liner with the bone white cake mix, and topped it in the center with red velvet. I made sure to spread the red velvet around for a slightly runny effect.

After they were removed from the oven, I used a frosting spackle and carved a hole on the top of each cupcake. I scooped out about a teaspoon worth of cake, and stuffed the resulting hole with strawberry jelly. For smaller cupcakes (which I made with the remaining batter) you can simply use a large frosting tip to get the puncture work done.

Once the displaced cake had been replaced, I went to work on the frosting. I whipped up a simple batch of buttercream frosting. I then "capped" the skulls with a neat layer of the frosting.

The end result was both spooky and delicious. Have a fun and safe Halloween!

xoxo, Ali 

July 17, 2014

What I've Been Reading: GIRLBOSS

Yes, this book entirely deserves its own post. If you are a small business owner and have any sense of humor, you must read this book... no, you must devour this book. If you aren't interested, watch this video.


Interested now? Yeah, I thought so. Sofia Amuroso opens her life and details how she went from a "crust-punk freegan" to the CEO of a multi-million dollar fashion company. This is not quite the traditional business how-to or the classic Cinderella story. Sofia's advice feels like your big sister teaching you how to curl your eyelashes, effortless and low key, but always honest. Though she didn't always know her shit, she figured it out and is eager to share her learning process. I cannot recommend this book enough. It gives great advice on subjects from dealing with your customers to writing a resume and holding down a job. From the first page she whips you int #GIRLBOSS shape with her wit and divine sense of herself. Furthermore, you do not complete the book with an idea of her as a heroine, you leave with a "how-to" of how to become your own hero.

July 1, 2014

Treat Yo-Self Tuesday: Rose Shaped Apple Pie

Happy July, everyone! For the first reinstatement of Treat-yo-self Tuesday, I decided to switch it up a bit. I've seen these gorgeous rose petal pies all over websites like pinterest and tumblr, but always thought "I so do not have the patience to make one of those" but as summer started to set in, I began to miss all of my favorite winter foods; pie being one of them. Though nothing is more "fourth of July" than Apple pie, I hate eating anything that is overly bread-like during the summer, and crust on crust definitely falls into that category. This pie takes half the crust out of the equation, thus making it more tart like (and y'all know how much I love tarts).  I pictured this as a lighter version of the pie I wanted to revisit from the winter months.
If I were to make this pie again, I think I would use a mix of apples and pears for the petals. I wanted to make this a bit more savory with the spices I used (see below), but I think the pears would help achieve that perfect flavor goal. Not to mention the contrast of colors would be gorgeous, even after baking.

The Crust
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/3 Cup Butter
1 tsp Salt
2 tbs Cold Water

Isn't this the cutest baking dish? It's vintage with a full apple pie recipe on the inside! 
1. I used a very simple crust so not to overshadow the flavor of the baked apples. Start by combining the flour and the salt.

2. Soften the butter and work into the flour mixture with a fork. 
3. Add the cold water and mix until an even ball of dough is formed. 
4. Dust a flat surface with flour (and your rolling pin too, for that matter) and roll the dough until it is 1/8th inch thick. I have heard this thickness compared to that of a banana peel. If this helps you judge depth, more power to you. 

5. Roll the dough into a hotdog to transport it to your baking dish (which I forgot grease- it turned out fine, actually.) Unroll and lightly press into place. Trim the sides and perforate with a fork for even baking. I had some crust left over so I decided to make a mini version of this pie in a ramekin! 

The Filling
7-8 Apples
1/3 cup Granulated Sugar
2 tbs Cinnamon
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 Pinch Nutmeg
1 tsp pure Vanilla Extract

1. Cut the apples into thin slices using either a vegetable peeler, a mandoline, or your trusty knife. 
2. Place them in a medium sized bowl and coat them in the sugar, cinnamon, garam masala, nutmeg, and vanilla extract. 
3. Let them sit until they become slightly more pliable. 

The Rose
1. Place six pats of butter scattered around the inside of the unbaked pie crust. Scatter another few table spoons of sugar and cinnamon overtop the butter. 
2. When you can bend the apples easily, pick one that is especially easily maneuvered and roll that as tight as you can. This will be the center of your rose. From there, build outward until your rose is about the size of your palm. Place this in the center of the pie crust. I find it easier to use the stronger pieces to shape the general structure of the rose (post placing it into the crust), and then fill in with the more bendable pieces. In the end you should get something looking like the photograph below. 

3. Bake on 400 for 20-25 minutes until golden all the way through, and slightly bubbling between the petals. 

June 27, 2014

Some Thoughts on Blogging

A few days ago, Steffy of the blog Steffys Pros and Cons posted yet another gorgeous outfit. Her striped crop top, vintage floral skirt, and sun hat were right in line with her spot on sense of fashion. It's what loyal readers, like myself, have come to expect from her blog over the years. What was not so typical about this post is that Steffy included some of her own thoughts regarding the world of blogging. I found them both interesting and thought provoking, and wanted to use her statement as a jumping off point for some of my own thoughts about blogging.

"this blog has done wonders for me, but sometimes i have to admit i quite dislike it (not you, but it). these pictures, this writing, this space-- it does not really capture even 1/30th of me. sure, i've tried to share snapshots of where i work, or where i walk to, or the meals that end up in my digestive tract, but none of that can portray how i FEEL. how i talk, how i laugh, how i think. i am a human being, just a human being with a camera taking pictures of all of the best moments in my life. it doesn't differentiate me from anybody else, really. anybody can have a blog, anybody can take photos on the day that they dress up, and anybody can create a "brand" for their life. my brand and me, we are two different monsters. sometimes i just hope that the world knows that." Steffy Kuncman - Steffy's Pros and Cons 

 What she so brilliantly articulated feels almost like a "duh" moment to me, but I realize I've felt that way about blogs I've read over the years in addition to blogs I've written. I feel like the blogging world can be as bad as media in the way that it holds those who choose to subscribe to its content to a certain standard that is never quite obtainable. We have begun to dismiss promotional ads in magazines as "photoshopped" and "fake" but aren't blogs supposed to be real? Aren't they supposed to represent real people in their real lives doing real things? 
Unfortunately, no. Like Steffy pointed out, anyone can post the best parts of their life on a blog, and anyone can misread the best parts of that person's life and take it as the whole of their life. This admission from Steffy is one of the few times I've seen a blogger acknowledge that the person so many readers seem to put on a pedestal isn't the same as the person who finds themselves in front of the camera week after week. As Steffy acknowledges in her bio, "i think the little things in life matter most, so i share my little things here."Steffy Kuncman - Steffy's Pros and Cons These parts of her life, these parts of my life are just that, parts. 
In her category, I believe that is a lot easier to make clear cut, to define boundaries. As a predominant fashion blogger, she has limitations over what she directly influences. For lifestyle bloggers such as myself, the boundaries are a bit more fuzzy. If this blog has a different feel to you, dear readers, that's because it should. I have started this blog three different times over the past two years and always found myself doing things to try to make the blog itself more interesting, things that were out of my normal routine and things I felt silly doing. I always intended this blog to be an "honesty project" of sorts. Since starting this blog on this platform, I have made sure to always remain true to myself. You'll never get the full picture of my life or any of the other bloggers lives, but just know that most of us are not super human. We still have to do laundry in order to wear the clothes you see us in, we still have to wash the dishes we cook our meals in, we still have to clean our apartment before we take pictures you see on our blogs, and we all have that one drawer in our home where we stick all of the things we have no idea where to put. 
Talk to you guys soon, 

May 23, 2014

Family Dinner Friday: Goat Cheese and Walnut Hors D'oeuvres & Spring Quinoa Salad

Good morning, everyone. Have you had a good week? Not so much? Well I've got the perfect thing to start your weekend off right, a simple dinner that is healthy, light, and flavorful. I got the salad recipe from here, though I decided to take out the olives because this salad really does not need them. That and I absolutely hate olives. This salad has so many complex and delicious flavors, the saltiness of the olives would definitely detract, in my opinion. The hors d'oeuvres are an original recipe that is the product of my girlfriend experimenting in the kitchen. She first tried them with a drizzle of honey, but since this particular brand of goat-cheese already had honey in it, that was a no-go. 
I realized after I had taken the pictures of the salad that I had forgotten to add the chickpeas! Silly me, but luckily it just took a quick stir and they were fully incorporated. 

Walnut H'ors D'ovures:
Roasted Vegetable Ritz Crackers
Honey Goat Cheese

1. Smear as much or as little goat cheese on a Ritz Cracker as you would like
2. Stick a walnut on top
3. Enjoy - these are delicious, easy, with priceless presentation value

Quinoa Salad:
1 1/3 Cup Uncooked Quinoa
2 2/3 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Red Onion
1 Cucumber
3 Medium Tomatoes
1 Can Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)
2 Ripe Avocados

For the Dressing:
1 Lemon
Olive Oil
2 Cloves Garlic

1. Wash the quinoa, and boil it in the water until cooked
2. Chop the cucumber, tomato, and red onion

3. Combine with the Garbanzo beans and Feta

4. Stir in the cooked quinoa
5. Add the juice of one lemon to a separate bowl. Add an equal amount of Olive Oil to the juice. Press the garlic into the same bowl, add a dash of salt, a crack of pepper, and a few shakes of Oregano. Whisk until fully combined.

6. Drizzle over the entire salad and stir to combine. 
7. Cut up the avocado whichever way you see fit, I find it easiest to make a grid pattern across the avocado with a knife, and scoop out the rectangles with a spoon.
8. Disperse the avocado around the bowl, or incorporate it with the rest of the salad.   

May 12, 2014

642 Things- Whittemore (actually) Writes!

This blog is titled Whittemore Writes not just because I believe it rolls off the tongue and I'm a fan of alliteration, but because it was originally meant to be a blog to showcase my writing! However, for the past eight months I haven't wanted to write at all. I always admired Flannery O'Connor because she would get up early every morning and sit at her typewriter for a set number of hours, or all day if she was on to something good. Writing is about habit, not inspiration as so many think, and I'm finding that to be more true every single day. I don't think my lack of writing had to do with a lack of inspiration. I find inspiration in even the smallest things: an off-handed comment, small notebooks, unexpectedly good conversations with friends, to name a few.

I was shopping with my girlfriend a few weeks ago when I picked up this book. 642 things to write about. 642 things. 642! That's a whole heck of a lot. My goal: to completely fill up this book, cover to cover, in a year. I'll be posting one or two things a week depending on length, and for the first time, really opening myself to critique. I'm apprehensive because I know the internet can be often times a mean place. However, I want to hear it all. Everything you've got to throw at me, I'm ready to hear it! If you think something sucks, tell me! But also, tell me why you think it sucks. Also understand I am very rusty as far as putting pen to paper, and hopefully these segments will improve over time. Without further ado, here is the first one!

Prompt: Write from this quote from Claude Levi-Strauss, "I am the place in which something has occurred."

My response: I am the place where this love happened. You touched the valley of my waist, kissed the basin of my collar bones, traversed my spine with your fingertips. You jumped ship after one night, you are climbing someone else's mountains. I am a place- my body a battleground of medication and my own corrupt chemistry. There is no "favorite" -money is not being exchanged on the sidelines. Soon my body will be memorialized with a plaque, dates and a name over useless earth. How does it feel to have razed a city, exploited an ecosystem, and carried on seeking your own ends? How does it feel to have had someone who drank your poison disguised as love, so you could exploit their resources?
What do you guys think? What could I have done better? Differently? How would you have answered the prompt? Leave me comments!

May 6, 2014

Treat Yo-Self Tuesday: Breakfast in Bed Muffins

My girlfriend came up with this recipe one morning in February. She likes to call them "Aunt Jemima and Haphazard Decisions Muffins" because these were made originally out of everything in the kitchen we needed to use up! Milk about to expire? This recipe uses a full cup! Have extra walnuts from that salad you never ate? Toss 'em in! Have those golden raisins been sitting in your fridge for longer than you would like to admit? Well thankfully, those get thrown into the mix too. Surprisingly, this mix of strange ingredients comes out to make a delicious muffin. 

Breakfast in Bed Muffins:
1 Cup Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix
1 Cup Flour
1/3 Cup Sugar
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 Cup Milk
1/3 Cup Oil
1 Egg
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Apple
Golden Raisins
Maple Syrup 
(Use as much as you see fit of the above three ingredients)

1. Set oven to 400 degrees
2. Combine all dry ingredients (pancake mix, flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon)
3. Whisk together wet ingredients (milk, oil, egg, vanilla)
4. Chop apples into small, but chunky bits. Combine with walnuts (I used the jumbo pieces and crushed them in my hand before putting them into the mix), and raisins. 
5. Mix all of it together, and put in a lined muffin tin.
6. Sprinkle with sugar (I used Sugar in the Raw) and bake for 14 minutes, or until cooked throughout.

Do any of you all have breakfast in bed traditions? Comment below and share! 

April 20, 2014

American Sign Museum

If you would ever think to cross the Las Vegas strip (as seen in movies) with a history buff's garage, you would get the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. Without even entering, you can already tell you're in for an intriguing journey.  

When you walk inside, your eyes adjust to the numerous illuminations of in-candescent and neon bulbs shouting advertisements for businesses that have long since closed their doors.  

However, businesses that have stood the test of time also have a larger than life representation. See: Big Boy. There was also a moving neon- light McDonald's sign that was larger than 5'5'' me and 5'2'' Lauren standing tip-toed on each other's shoulders! I could not get a picture that did it justice, you're just going to have to go see it for yourself. 

One thing I really liked about the set-up of the museum, is that they created entire scenes for the signs they acquired. Under the "Drugs" sign, there was a small store front. Instead of items for sale being displayed in the windows, there were historical items relating to drugstore advertising. For a gas-station sign, they created a simple gas station that looked like it could be parked right off the road in a small town. 

I think my favorite sign was this "Pops" sign in the room used for private parties & gatherings. Its lettering was a glittering white which scattered the light from the flashing bulbs that flashed across the calligraphy. 

I also really loved all of the interesting reflections the bright lights created against the glass panels that protected the historical material. 

Surprisingly, this place is also very educational about the transition from old-school advertising to what we see on the side of the road in the modern day. It takes you not only through different types of lettering, but the shift on how these letters were made over the years. They have definitely struck a good balance between lit and unlit signs, between fun and educational.

Over all, this was a wonderful stop to make. Admission was slightly over priced ($15), but I do not regret having the opportunity to look at an interesting history of U.S. advertising.  I hope some day that there might be an international sign museum, examining the contrasts of how different areas developed their advertising practices. 

Remember, if you would like prints of any of these photographs, you can message via Etsy or e-mail me. All information can be found on my contact page. 
Have a wonderful day!