Meyer Lemon Pudding Cake

March 30, 2013

A few weeks ago, I panicked when I saw that meyer lemons were on sale at my local fancypants grocery store. Produce on sale usually means that the season is coming to a close. Shame on me since I still hadn't posted any recipes that took advantage of meyer lemon season!

The meyer lemons in front of me, however, looked like the last of the crop — too soft and squishy, and maybe even on the verge of molding. No wonder they were on sale! But oh well. I'd been wanting to try preserving meyer lemons for some time now. Might as well get the lemons while the going was still... well, going. I sighed, rolled up my sleeves, and helped myself to a generous bunch with the intention of preserving them later.

Unfortunately, after waiting a day to start my project, I opened up the brown bag containing the lemons and found that almost all of them had gone moldy. So much for that project. I couldn't hide my disappointment — not only had I failed as a food blogger and failed to bake anything using meyer lemons, I felt like I had missed my last chance for some fresh, seasonal produce. Because we were entering March. Shudder.

March is my least favorite month of the year. Although it's been a bit of a mild year, March has historically been the time of year in Oregon where the rain is at its worst: unrelentless and seemingly never-ending. It's also an odd time in terms of what's in season — with winter stores drying up and spring yet to begin, it seems like there's nothing exciting or fresh to be found in local stores. Indeed, if you check out this list of what's in season during March in Oregon, you'll find... well, nothing.

So imagine my surprise when I walked into that same local fancypants grocery store and found a fresh batch of meyer lemons. So much for missing the season! These meyer lemons were the opposite of the sad batch that I'd bought earlier: bright, firm-skinned, and not a blemish in sight. Even though I knew these were probably the last of the good batch and not as awesome as they would have been at the peak of the season, I couldn't resist. Besides, I'd had my eye on this recipe for lemon pudding cake for some time now and let me tell you — it did not disappoint:

What's a pudding cake, I hear you ask? Well, this is a bit of an odd analogy, but think of a foamy, warm bubble bath. Imagine it now, awaiting for you after a hard day of work — the layers of light and fluffy foam up top sitting on top of fragrant, warm water.

Now imagine that as a cake. Specifically, a lemon pudding cake. Because that's what pudding cake is. A layer of ever-so-light and sweet sponge cake sitting — no, floating — on top of a layer of tart lemon pudding:

During the baking process, the batter separates to create the two layers to a glorious effect. To wit, after my boyfriend had a bite of the cake, he exclaimed: "Whoa! How'd you do this? Did you make a custard and then bake a cake to put on top of it?"

Ha! As if I would bake something that would require that much effort. See, the trick here is about the recipe's ratios. The recipe consists of primarily liquids (think: lemon juice, milk, whipped egg whites) and just a touch of flour, which then separate during the baking process to create the two distinct layers. The lighter ingredients (flour, bolstered by whipped egg whites) rise up in the heat to bake like a souffle, while the heavier ingredients (primarily lemon juice and milk) develop into a lemon pudding. Pretty snazzy food science, right?

Because the lemon pudding cake's batter is primarily liquid, it's important to bake this in a bain-marie (or, a water bath). A bain-marie allows the cake to cook at a more even temperature throughout the baking process. You can read up about it some more in Miette's recipe for cheesecake. Don't worry about the cracks on the cake — they're unavoidable and lend the cake a beautiful, rustic look to complement its delicious taste.

Strawberry Milkshake Cupcakes

March 27, 2013

It's no secret that I'm the world's healthiest eater. I love everything that's terrible for you — excessive amounts of sugar, butter, animal fat... if it's guaranteed to give you heartburn, I probably love it. I was even worse in high school. I thrived off the grossest things. Not only did I eat a lot of fast food, I ate a lot of terrible, super-processed and frozen junk foods. Pepperoni Hot Pockets? One of my favorite foods for the longest time. Bagel Bites? Yes please.

One of my worst vices, however, was Nesquik's strawberry milk powder. I used to drink strawberry milk every night before bed, made by yours truly by scooping as much powder as would dissolve into a tall glass of whole milk. So when I saw the recipe for strawberry milkshake cupcakes in the Hummingbird Bakery's new cookbook, Home Sweet Home, I got REALLY excited. This is the recipe for me! The strawberry milk of my childhood made into cupcake form:

Aren't they adorable?

Okay, but truth be told, my first batch of strawberry milkshake cupcakes were... well, too sweet. Almost frighteningly so. Indeed, as I was going through and measuring out the ingredients, it seemed like the recipe was using a shocking amount of strawberry milkshake powder. Bear in mind that the Hummingbird Bakery is a British bakery, so I suspect that strawberry milkshake powder in England is probably significantly less sweet than it is over here since British people tend to be more health-conscious (I don't know if that's actually true, but I do know that Hot Pockets and Bagel Bites don't exist in England, so there's that).

When I gave a cupcake to my coworker with a warning that they were too intense, she took a bite and frowned: "These taste exactly like this kid I used to babysit for's after-school snack. You know, Nesquik Strawberry Milk? These taste exactly like them." I responded by explaining what I told you guys above: yep, I was a fan and I used to drink that stuff by the bottle and I didn't recall them being incredibly sweet. She looked at me wide-eyed. "You're a fan? When was the last time you drank some of that stuff?" she asked. I admitted it had been years and years. She shook her head. "You need to try it again."

Following her advice, I went to the local supermarket and bought a bottle during my lunchbreak. My first sip, I nearly coughed it up. The strawberry milk I remembered from my childhood wasn't this intense and sickly sweet... or was it? It certainly looked the same — the bright pink, the yellow packaging. Had my palette altered so drastically that my favorite childhood foods seemed incredibly artificial, overly sweet, and... well, just kind of sad? Probably. The truth is, we grow out of most of our favorite foods from our childhood. There's a reason I don't eat Hot Pockets anymore.

Despite this bittersweet truth about my favorite childhood drink, I went home inspired and determined. Even though I found the initial recipe to be too intense and sweet, I loved the idea behind this cupcake and I wanted to create a cupcake more suited to grown-ups's tastes. So I started experimenting with the recipe — even though I kept most of the original recipe's ingredients the same, I adjusted the quantities of milk, sugar, and strawberry powder to create a cupcake more suited for an adult's palate:

The result was a cupcake that was less sweet and had more strawberry flavor, complemented by a slight malty texture from the strawberry powder in the frosting. Don't get me wrong — it was still as sweet and decadent as a milkshake, just more... manageable. To top it off, I used enough strawberry milk powder to give the cupcake that bright pink color with no additional food coloring necessary. In the picture above, you can see that, not only is the frosting that beautiful pink, the cake is too. How pro is that?

Since I was quite pleased with the results, I decided to throw myself a little celebration party and deck my cupcakes out:

See the adorable cake flags in the cupcakes? They're courtesy of one of my favorite Etsy stores, Paper and Pinafore. Not only do they sell the adorable cake topper flags you see in the pictures, but they also offer gorgeous stationary, wedding invitations, and other cute paraphernalia. As a matter of fact, I'm currently coveting their colored baker twine and chevron striped ribbons to use as props in my food photography.

Oh, and did I mention that, just like me, Paper and Pinafore is based in Portland? As a matter of fact, the shop owner and I used to live a stone's throw away from each other in the same neighborhood. How funny is that! Moral of the story: everybody should just move to Portland already, where cute little baking blogs like mine and Etsy stores like Paper and Pinafore are in abundance. Wait. That's not the moral of the story... is it? It is, but another moral of the story is make these cupcakes, because they're awesome. Yep, that's more like it. Try the recipe below and see if you like it! If not, you can always check out the original recipe at Home Sweet Home or, if you're in London, you can check out a strawberry milkshake cupcake from the Hummingbird Bakery itself. ;-)

Hibiscus Ginger Ale

March 23, 2013

The following is a guest post by my boyfriend, Erlend.

Before I let him begin though, allow me to share just a little bit of background about him, us, our relationship, and our hobbies.

Erlend and I are pretty opposite in a lot of ways, but I think our differences tend to show the most in the kitchen. When Erlend cooks, he likes to free fall and fly blind with no recipes, throwing everything in a pot and adjusting things to taste. As you've probably figured out from this blog, I'm the exact opposite — I'm lost without clear and concise directions, like the baker that I am.

Although we're both really into food and love a lot of the same kinds of food, we ended up on the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to actually making the food itself. Whereas I like sugary baked goods and complicated pastries, Erlend's more interested in brewing and fermentation — things like curing his own salami and making his own beer and wine. He even did a stint as a pre-brewer at the famed Rogue Brewery.

It's rare that we make things that actually interest the other. Erlend's not the world's biggest sweet tooth — often times, he'll have a bite of my desserts and that'll be enough sugar for him for the next few days. Conversely,  I wrinkle my nose at some of Erlend's home brews. I'm not the world's biggest alcohol drinker, and in my defense, he's quite adventurous and often combines ingredients in his alcohols that are, uhhh, shall we say...unique? Like that time he made banana-rhubarb wine. There's a reason why you don't often see that combination, let me tell you.

When Erlend gave me a sip of his home-brewed hibiscus ginger ale, however, I was enthusiastic. First of all, look at that pretty color! Surely anything that beautiful would be delicious:

And it was. Light, refreshing, and tangy, I was impressed. So impressed that I asked Erlend to do a guest blog post. At first, he resisted, waving it off as my thing. But I eventually got him to oblige, and before I knew it, he had spent three hours excitedly working away on the post! Usually, it's the other way around — I'm the one typing away on my blog while Erlend impatiently taps his foot telling me to hurry up so we can finally go eat somewhere. It was really quite hilarious to have our roles reversed. This time, I was the one clutching my stomach in hunger as he insisted "five more minutes!" so he could get this sentence just right.

It was also quite funny to read the recipe that Erlend had written. It was the complete opposite from most of my recipes — filled with imprecise measures and playing things by ear, his recipe encouraged folks to experiment and veer off-course.

I loved it.

Without further ado, I turn the post to Erlend:

Miette's Miniature Cheesecake

March 20, 2013

In my last post, I talked about how homemade honey graham crackers could really elevate your baked good. In this post, I prove it. Folks, meet this miniature cheesecake from San Francisco's famed Miette bakery. It's made with a crust from homemade honey graham crackers and is living proof that the extra step of homemade crackers is worth it.

Aside from the fact that this cheesecake has a crust made from homemade honey graham crackers, there's something else remarkable about it. Specifically, let's take a closer look at the cheesecake:

Don't notice anything special?

Well, let's take a quick poll. How many people here have made what they thought would turn out to be a beautiful cheesecake, only to pull it out of the oven and be greeted with a cracked and puffy top? I know I have. Last year, after laboring for hours on a cheesecake for Thanksgiving dinner with my boyfriend's family, I was disappointed when I pulled it out of the oven. The cheesecake was overinflated and puffy, completely opposite from the smooth and creamy cheesecake I had expected! What's worse, as the cheesecake cooled, giant cracks appeared on top of the cake. I had to scramble last minute and hide the top with mixed berries and rose petals. It tasted delicious, admittedly, but cheesecakes are supposed to be beautiful. Wasn't there a recipe that could be both? One that could produce a creamy and delicious flavor, with a perfectly smooth and unblemished top?

So, I rolled up my sleeves and started googling up a storm. There was a LOT of advice out there on how to get the perfect cheesecake. The advice ranged from sensible (make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature so that they fully incorporate with one another during the mixing process) to flat-out ridiculous (specifically, somebody out there has a theory that smooth cheesecakes are actually just frozen custards???). Feeling overwhelmed, I decided to take a look at popular cheesecake recipes. And that's when I started to notice patterns.

First, all the famous cookbooks and chefs recommended baking a cheesecake in a bain-marie; that is, a warm water bath. Baking items in a water bath is a neat trick since it does a couple of things. First, it brings the cake's temperature up quickly. Second, it allows the cake to bake evenly throughout the baking time. Third, it allows for a more constant baking temperature since water in a bain-marie will remain at a constant temperature (somewhere around boiling). According to my sources, it's really quick changes in temperature that cause cracks — controlling your temperature through a bain-marie is an easy way to prevent fluctuations in temperature and warm spots in your oven.

The other constant I noticed throughout the recipes was their emphasis on NOT overmixing the batter. Overmixing causes too much air to enter the batter — it's the same air that tries to escape during the baking process and cause the cake to crack. Most cheesecakes involve a creaming process with the cream cheese and sugar before adding the eggs. The creaming process incorporates air into the cheesecake, so it's important it still gets a good creaming process to give the cheesecake a light and fluffy texture. But don't overbeat the batter once adding the eggs — that's where the danger really is. Simply beat the eggs on a low speed only until they've been incorporated, making sure to stop the mixer once they have.

With this in mind, I decided to try a cheesecake recipe from Miette. Not only was Miette one of San Francisco's most beloved pastry shops, their recipe for cheesecake was simple and emphasized both values I described above. It was no surprise that the cheesecake came out beautifully. Despite the fact that the cheesecake's top had no blemishes to hide, I decided to follow the recipe's instructions and top it off with a sour cream glaze. I was not disappointed — the sour cream was perfectly tart and creamy, a great complement to the cheesecake's rich flavor and fluffy texture.

Note, however, I use the word "miniature" to describe the cheesecake recipe. Miette is famous for making small cakes; for instance, this cheesecake is baked using a 6-inch springform pan. Six inches is a modest amount – my boyfriend and I finished nearly three-quarters of the cake in one sitting. Great for your waistlines, but maybe not your appetite. Because believe me when I say you'll want as much of this cheesecake as you can get. From the homemade honey graham cracker crust to the perfectly smooth top, this cheesecake is a dream come true.

Homemade Honey Graham Crackers

March 16, 2013

Guys, today I'm going to let you in on my little baker's secret: homemade honey graham crackers.

Truth be told, I'm not the world's biggest fan of honey graham crackers. They remind me too much of the soggy camping trips where I consistently demonstrated I was the world's worst s'more maker. My s'mores weren't really s'mores, per se; they were more like overly-charred marshmallows and unmelted Hershey's chocolate sandwiched between stale graham crackers.

Besides, I kinda had a beef with honey graham crackers in the first place. It seemed to defy my personal life philosophy of picking one thing and doing it really well. Because what the frig is a honey graham cracker, anyway? I'm being serious here. Is it a cracker trying to bill itself as a cookie? Or a cookie trying to bill itself as a cracker? Eitherway, it was stretching itself too thin trying to do both.

But homemade honey graham crackers are a different thing entirely — especially these guys. These flower-shaped honey graham crackers use the term "cracker" loosely. There's definitely none of the cracker crunch that you get from the store-bought kind; instead, these babies are soft, buttery, and flakey like shortbread. When making the dough, it really did remind me more of a shortbread dough with some cinnamon and honey thrown in for flavor. Despite this, the cookies still gave a satisfying "snap" when cracked in half.

Also, note the pretty flower shape — when was the last time you saw a cracker that pretty?

And here's another awesome thing behind these cookies — they're the secret behind a delicious key lime pie or the perfect cheesecake crust. If you ever see a recipe that calls for honey graham cookie crumbs, don't go out and buy store-bought cookies. No, no, no. The thing to do is make these guys. It's an extra step, sure, but one that I promise will pay off. When crumbled in a food processor and baked for a few minutes, these graham crackers transform into something else. A beautiful, dark golden crust that will hold its own against any pie, tart, or cheesecake filling. No longer an afterthought, a crust made from these cookies will really elevate your baked good.

Homemade honey graham crackers: it's the secret that professionals and bakeries don't want you to find out. And mine too. But I'm sharing it with you guys because I'm nice. ;-)

Butterscotch Pots de Crème

March 13, 2013

My senior year of college, my friends and I decided that we had had enough of Portland's "drabbyness". We'd come from larger and far more diverse cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Houston, and we claimed to miss the "sophistication" of big city life. Oh, to be 21 and trying so hard to be grown-up! Those were the days.

In our defense, most of us hadn't really explored the city's dining scene. Back in the day, I remember how sleepy Portland seemed before I turned 21; as a minor, I was denied access to most of Portland's nightlife. Not that Portland has much of a nightlife to begin with — it was just hard to find a restaurant that stayed open after 10PM. I'm not kidding when I say that the only option you had if you wanted to go out after that time was to go to a bar or Voodoo Doughnut. Mind you, this was before Portland's food scene really blew up — for instance, Pok Pok hadn't won national acclaim yet and you could sit on their outside picnic benches without table service.

In any case, my friends and I were finally 21 and ready to explore the bar and restaurant scene, determined to find that big city feel that we missed. And as total newbs, we did the first thing you do when you're a newbie in Portland: you check out the Pearl District.

For those of you unfamiliar with Portland, let me describe the Pearl. You probably have one of these neighborhoods in your city. You know, the kind of neighborhood that's celebrated by tourists and guidebooks, but in actuality, isn't... well, how do I put this delicately... that great? The Pearl is one of those neighborhoods. It's got a neat little back story, sure — the neighborhood was formerly occupied by empty and abandoned warehouses, but in the 90s went through significant urban renewal and transformed itself into a neighborhood filled with warehouse-to-loft art galleries and expensive high-rise condos. In Portland, if you wanted to be seen as a person of status, you bought a condo in the Pearl.

Truthfully, the Pearl really didn't have much going for it back in the day. The food revolution was actually happening in the east side neighborhoods of Portland, places were Pok Pok, Podnah's, Bunk Sandwiches, and Apizza Scholls were quietly redefining the food scene. In contrast, the Pearl was filled with chain restaurants owned by corporate restaurant groups, often overpriced and filled with what amounted to Portland's bridge-and-tunnel crowd looking for a night out in the city. My friends and I tried many of these sorts of restaurants that have now come and gone — most were forgettable and closed without notice.

Except one — Bay 13. Bay 13 was a monstrosity of a restaurant located in the heart of the Pearl. In retrospect, it was everything I hate in a restaurant today — big and flashy with a grandiose concept, but with terrible, overpriced food and pretentious service. I wasn't particularly sorry to see the soggy sushi and the overpriced cocktails go, but they did have one item on the menu that kept me and my friends going back. It wasn't one of their sub-par entrees or mediocre drinks, nope. It was a dessert. Specifically, a butterscotch pot de crème with crème fraiche:

In my honest opinion, this was the best dessert in town back in the day. One that I've literally been dreaming about since the restaurant closed in 2010. One that I've recreated for you folks today.

Tour of Urban Farmer's Kitchen + A Whole Beast Butchery Demo

March 9, 2013

Let me begin this post with a disclaimer — if you're vegetarian and get grossed out by raw meat, turn away now. This post features lots of meat in a blood-red, raw, and uncooked state.  I know it's a bit of a departure from the pretty little baked goods you see in this blog, but I've always been interested in whole beast butchery and couldn't pass up the opportunity learn more about it.

I was also invited to the dinner by Little Green Pickle, a Portland, OR media relations firm for several KILLER restaurants including Urban Farmer. However, all thoughts and opinions found in this post are sincerely my own.  

A few days ago, I was lucky enough to attend a Portland Food Blogger's dinner at Urban Farmer. The invitation was for a kitchen tour and a whole beast butchery demo, followed by a family-style dinner prepared personally by famed executive chef Matt Christianson:

Although my food blogging tends to focus on baked goods, I knew I couldn't pass up this opportunity because, well... can I make a confession? I'm a terrible cook. For all the talk I do about my massive meat and animal by-product consumption, I have no idea how to prepare meat for myself.  Especially not beef. I could tackle chicken, but I'm not going to lie — preparing a steak intimidates the crap out of me! It was time to learn how to do it right. And what better way to learn than to have a talented executive chef at a highly-lauded steakhouse walk you through it?

Sweetened Condensed Milk Cake with A Grand Marnier Soak

March 6, 2013

When I was a little kid, sweetened condensed milk was one of my favorite things. If I was sick and needed a spoonful of cough syrup to get me by, my mother would promise me a spoonful of sweetened condensed milk afterwards to help get rid of the taste. Even when I was sick, I recognized that this was a treat. Instead of her promised spoonful, I would ask for several, claiming the gross taste of cherry cough syrup was still in my mouth. My mother would just smile knowingly.

When I was feeling better, I would later break into our pantry, trying to figure out where my mother kept the cans of sweetened condensed milk. Always on the top shelf, of course. The only thing that really stopped my 7-year-old self from devouring an entire can was the fact that I didn't know how to operate a can opener.

It wasn't until fairly recently that I remembered sweetened condensed milk even existed in the first place. When tasked with baking a key lime pie for my coworker's sister's boyfriend's birthday (quite the connection, I know!), the recipe called for a can of sweetened condensed milk. It was only then that I remembered how much I loved the stuff. After emptying the majority of the can's contents into the pie filling, I found myself using a rubber spatula to scrape the remains of the can and lick it clean. Turns out old habits die hard.

Enter this recipe for sweetened condensed milk cake:

That's right. Sweetened condensed milk cake. It's like my two favorite things coming together — sweetened condensed milk AND cake — to have the beautiful baby that you see above.

I've had my eye on this recipe for a while now. I was interested in it not only because it combined two of my favorite things, but also because its recipe was structurally interesting. Instead of using sugar to sweeten the cake, the recipe uses two cans of sweetened condensed milk. How would it taste?

You would expect a cake that uses two cans of sweetened condensed milk to be extraordinarily sweet, but this cake wasn't. At all. If anything, it was less sweet than other cakes I've made in the past. Its main flavor instead came from the eggs, which was unsurprising — there were 8 eggs in the recipe after all. I was pleasantly surprised. I'm a big fan of eggy pound cakes.

The cake was also denser than I thought. I was expecting a light and fluffy cake, but this was a hearty beast. In retrospect, this makes a lot of sense — creaming eggs and sugar together creates air bubbles that give cakes their light and airy texture. Therefore, replacing sugar with a heavy liquid like sweetened condensed milk results in a dense cake since you won't have additional leavening from the creaming process.

The cake's denseness was not a bad thing at all — on the contrary, it created the perfect texture for soaking up absorbing a cake soak. I ended up whipping a Grand Marnier cake soak that I poured over the cake before topping it off with powdered sugar and orange zest. The orange flavor complemented the cake's eggy flavor, resulting in one of the most delicious cakes I've had in a long time. I also suggest whipping up a dark chocolate ganache or orange glaze to top the cake off. Or at least, that's what I'll be doing the next time I make this cake. ;-)

Blog Redesign, Pt. 2: Choosing A Platform & A Review of Squarespace

March 5, 2013

This is Part 2 of my blog's redesign series, chronicling my blog's recent makeover. See Part 1 (including Before & After pics) here

In my last post, Part 1 of this series, I listed three major reason on why I decided to redesign my blog. Truth be told, I omitted the real reason why I decided to change my blog in the first place: I hated Blogger, my blogging platform. Or at least, I thought I did. But we'll get to that later.

Back in December, when I had a bunch of free time in my hands over the Christmas holiday, I decided to give my blog (still in its old design) a bit of a refresher. I wanted simply to change my blog's background from its current wood background to a canvas background.

Changing your blog's background in Blogger isn't particularly complicated. All you need to do is access Blogger's template editor, select an image to upload and set as a background, hit "Apply to Template", and voila. Done. No fancy HTML or CSS needed. It was this simplicity and ease of use that attracted me to Blogger in the first place. 

But as I hit "Apply to Blog", nothing happened. I clicked it again. I could see it in Blogger's preview function, but not on my blog.

After doing this several times (and expecting different results) without any luck, I decided to take the issue to Blogger support. This was the first time I'd ever used Blogger support and wasn't entirely sure how it worked. Turns out that Blogger's support is basically... non-existent. Help could only be found in unreliable Google Groups — that is, post your issue up on an anonymous forum and hope that somebody answers it.

As I prepared to drop my problem into the Blogger Support Google Group, I realized that I wasn't the only one reporting the issue. In fact, literally thousands of other bloggers had reported this same issue, starting in the summer of last year! The more I read up on it, the more I was disheartened: this was a bug that had been around for at least 6 months, possibly more. It affected around 30% of Blogger users, meaning that literally thousands of people could not make any changes to their template. Google seemed to have made no efforts to fix the bug, or even reach out to the community about the issue.

Welp. Time to find a new blogging platform.

It's a bit of a known fact that most of the big bloggers use Wordpress, but I'm not the world's biggest fan. Long story short, the company I work for currently uses Wordpress to host our site and it's pretty much put me off the platform for reasons I won't list here. Admittedly, I've only ever used Wordpress for business and not pleasure, so maybe that's the difference? In any case, it wasn't an option I wanted to explore for the time being.

Now, I'm not sure where I first heard about Squarespace, but I do know two of the blogs I admire the most — Pastry Affair and Roost — used Squarespace as their blogging platform. Additionally, the company advertised ease of use, 24/7 support, and hosting services as some of their main strengths. Although I was reluctant to move to a paid platform (Squarespace charges $8 a month, not very steep, but still a price compared to Blogger and Wordpress's free services), I was willing to take advantage of their 2-week long free trial.

Well, I'll tell you one thing. With Squarespace, I was able to easily build a new and extraordinarily beautiful site from the get-go:

Their template editor allowed me to do things that I didn't have the HTML/CSS knowledge for — things like editing the padding between the header, navigation bar, and content. I also liked the fact that Boutique, the template I chose, had a navigation bar that was anchored up top — that is, you could keep scrolling down the page, but my "Home/Recipes/About" bar would always stay in its place at the top of the window. Seems like a minor detail, I know, but I have no idea how I would code for something like that in HTML/CSS. This is it, I thought to myself. I'm moving to Squarespace.

The New York Times's "Fat Dad" Brownies

March 3, 2013

Guys, sugar-free month is finally OVER! Now I can finally bake these brownies that I have literally spent two weeks thinking about.

But before I talk about brownies, let's talk about sugar-free month. How did it go? How do I feel? Was it worth it? Why did I even do something like this to myself?

Let's rewind. Recall that this whole sugar-free thing started as a bet between me and my boyfriend. My boyfriend, ever-so-patient of my pesky dessert habit (that is, the fact that I need something sweet after every meal) presented me with a challenge: go refined-sugar-free for the month of February. Could I do it? He didn't think so.

Well, nothing motivates me more than proving my boyfriend wrong (I'm a great girlfriend that way), so I rolled up my sleeves and accepted. Hey, if I could bike across the USA, what was 28 days (the shortest month of the year was not a coincidence) without sugar? We sat down and agreed on the rules: all refined-sugar was off limits. But natural sugars from fruit and stuff like honey, maple and agave syrup were okay. Didn't seem so bad, right?

Blog Redesign, Pt. 1: Creating The Design

March 2, 2013

Oh hello there.

You might have noticed that things are a little different around here. Because that's right! Hummingbird High just underwent a massive makeover. From this...

To the fancy digs you see around you now:

For a lot of people, designing a blog or website is purely an aesthetic choice — pick pretty colors, a cute logo, and voila! You're done. But the more I work in marketing and read up on graphic design, I realize that there's much more to it than that. So this time, before I even started redesigning Hummingbird High, I thought long and hard (and probably spent way too much time and effort) thinking about what I wanted my blog's design to say. I know that sounds corny and pretentious, but hear me out.

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