Naked Strawberry Almond Cake with Honey Rose Cream Cheese Frosting

My dad's birthday and Easter fell on the same weekend this year, so it called for a major cake.

This is my major cake. A big tall stack of cake goodness that looks as inviting and gorgeous as it tastes.

You start off with a simple almond cake. It's moist and rich with almond flavor thanks to the generous amount of almond paste (nearly a full pound!) in the batter. It bakes into two layers that you then split and layer with the good stuff.

A Big Messy Sexy Veggie Board

Messy is sexy when it comes to food. Big abundant piles of delicious things. Nothing too precious or precise. People should feel like they can just dive in without messing anything up. Food should be welcoming and available and satisfying and imperfect.

That's what I had in mind when I set out this veggie board for a party I hosted this past weekend.

Low Carb Mint Chip Protein Shake

When I was in college, my friend Matt and I would regularly spend an evening working our way through an entire pint of Haagen Dazs mint chip ice cream. That and a movie was our idea of a pretty great night in. My ice cream consumption is significantly less these days, but my love of all things mint chip continues.

That was the inspiration behind this Low Carb Mint Chip Protein Shake. I've seen versions of it around for a while (especially earlier this month around St. Patrick's Day), and have been meaning to try my hand at it.

7 Delicious Places to Read a Book

 1. The window seat on a plane 36,000 feet up in the air.
Bring a tea bag from home and ask the flight attendant for hot water (the coffee is never good, but tea can be). Or get a glass of wine. Bring snacks, too. I like something chocolate (a candy bar or small piece of cake or these little chocolate covered coconut pieces), salty cured chorizo, a few slices of manchego, and really good crackers. Lean up against the window, wrap yourself up in a big blanket, and don't stop reading until you finish the book or the plane lands (whichever comes first).

2. A bath.
Fill it up high with water that's way too hot to step into yet. Add bath salts or scented oil or bubbles (or all three). Tightly roll up a towel to use as a pillow and put a mud mask on before you get in. A playlist of something jazzy enough to block out all outside noises, but ambient enough to not distract. Shut the door. Sink in. Read until the water turns cool and your fingers are soft little prunes.

3. A train.
Not the subway or the commuter train, I mean a proper train that'll take you somewhere that requires a bit of luggage. Bonus points if it's in another country. Again you'll need the seat by the window, the blanket, and the snacks. If there's a quiet car, take that one, and let the only noise be the rocking rattle of the tracks as you turn the page.

4. Your sunniest room on that first warm spring day.
The one that helps you forget winter and gives you hope for the summer. Fling all the windows open, and let the breeze flow through carrying with it the scent of mossy grass cuttings and singing birds.

5. Summer I.
There is a whole category of books that exists expressly for being read like this: Outside, by water. Maybe it's a pool or maybe it's the beach (I prefer the latter provided there is someone to bring you a drink). There should be a table nearby to hold your drink, which must be cold, filled with ice and sweating fiercely. The book should be something light and sexy, a bit silly. The kind of book you can read in between quick naps or dips in the water. Disposable, too, so that you don't care about the sand getting stuck in the creases, or the droplets of water and coconut-scented fingerprints marring the pages. When you finish it, leave it behind for a random stranger to find.

6. Summer II.
This one is best after a day out--maybe at work, or maybe just exploring. Either way, you're hot and tired so you come home and walk straight into the shower, letting the water run as cold as you can handle. The AC should be on--you need the room frigid because outside it feels like a hundred and the humidity is thick. Slip into something breezy and collapse on the bed (which should have been made-- the sheets pulled tight and the pillows arranged perfectly.) You might have plans later, but for a while it should be just this book, this chilly room, and the afternoon light streaming in through the window.

7. In bed.
Turn the computer off. Or the iPad or your phone or anything that lights up or beeps or demands attention. Most of the lights should be off (except the one you need to read), and the only sound should be the pages that turn. Teeth brushed, face washed, dishes put away. Everything that had to be done has already been done (or you've accepted that it just won't be.) This isn't the time for a new book; you want something you've already read or you're already deep into so you can get right into it. Maybe you'll read for a few pages, or maybe it'll grab you and you'll stay up all night. Your body knows what you need; let it guide you.


Vegan Asparagus & Watercress Soup

The trees outside my living room window are frosted with bits of ice and snow, but the calendar says that it's officially spring and I think that's what really matters.

I'm ready for it. I'm ready for the flowers to start shooting out of the ground, and for tiny green buds to perk out of tree branches. I love my winter coat (I got a really great one this year), but I will love tucking it away in the closet even more.

We spent several days in New Orleans earlier this month, and I'm off to Miami in a couple weeks, and it's like my mind has just totally shifted. I've been buying spring dresses and new shoes and gravitating toward everything pink and light and sunny.

This soup is my way of capturing that feeling in a bowl. Asparagus (the ultimate spring-y thing, in my opinion) is sauteed lightly with garlic and onion, then pureed until smooth in a bit of broth. Bunches of fresh peppery watercress add to the color and flavor. It's thin, but still creamy (and vegan, to boot), and makes the perfect starter for brunch or lunch. This with a sandwich on the side, or topped off with something like pulled chicken or cooked ham would make for a filling afternoon meal.


Cucumber Carpaccio Salad

Real carpaccio is made with meat. Or fish. But definitely some kind of animal protein that is sliced paper thin, and served dressed simply with olive oil, a bit of acid, salt, pepper, and maybe some cheese.

It's one of those dishes that's brilliant in its elegance and simplicity.

Cucumber carpaccio is technically not a real carpaccio, but the idea is the same. Cucumber (and some peppers, here, too) sliced paper thin, dressed with olive oil, lemon, salt, pepper, a few herbs. And feta cheese.


Spring Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

I'm pretty lazy when it comes to salads. I pretty much always buy the pre-washed spring mixes and rarely dress them with little more than a squeeze of lemon juice and some olive oil. It's what I eat for lunch several times a week--with grilled chicken, crispy salmon, steak.

And honestly? If the greens are interesting--peppery arugula and spicy mustard greens are my fave--that simple preparation is enough. But every so often, I do like to mix things up.

This is the kind of easy salad that doesn't require much work, but which looks super pretty on the dining table. It's a great brunch salad or an easy accompaniment for a springtime dinner party.


A Simply Orange Brunch Party (Orange Muffins + Orange Rose Mimosas)

Though we do have little pockets of green here and there, New York City has never really been known for its nature. This is especially true during the colder months when hibernation is basically the only sane option, and a proper dose of sunshine requires a seat on a plane headed due south.

I admittedly love any excuse to get out of town, but unfortunately, that isn't always possible.

The next best way to cure a case of urban cabin fever? Finding a way to bring a bit of nature home through the things we eat and drink!


Orange Rose Mimosas Recipe

A dash of rose water and fresh lemon juice adds an elegant and floral twist to a classic mimosa. Enjoy this easy recipe at your next brunch party or event.

This is perfect with my Orange Sunshine Muffins, or click here for more citrus-themed brunch recipe inspiration!

This recipe was created in sponsored collaboration with Simply Orange. Thank you for supporting amazing companies like Simply that make it possible for me to keep bringing you great new recipes!

Orange Rose Mimosas
Makes 2 mimosas, multiply as necessary

4 ounces chilled Simply Orange juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon rose water
Chilled dry prosecco, cava, or champagne.

Combine the orange juice, lemon juice, and rose water in a mixer and stir well. Divide into two champagne flutes or wine glasses. Top with sparkling wine until it doubles in volume or reaches the top of the glass. Serve immediately.

Tip: if making these for a crowd, mix up a the juices and rose water first and chill, then pour into individual glasses and top with bubbly as necessary. Keep everything very cold and only open the sparkling wine or champagne right before serving.


Orange Sunshine Muffins Recipe

These easy orange juice muffins are made with nearly two full cups of orange juice, and are ready in less than 30 minutes. You'll love the bright orange flavor and crunchy sugar topping.

Pair these with my rose-scented mimosas, or click over for more fun citrus-themed brunch recipes.

This recipe was created in sponsored collaboration with Simply Orange. Thank you for supporting amazing companies like Simply that make it possible for me to keep bringing you great new recipes!

Orange Sunshine Muffins
Makes 2 dozen regular muffins or 12 giant muffins

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups granulated white sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 3/4 cups Simply Orange juice (I used Simply Orange Pulp Free)
3 tablespoons fresh orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons Turbinado sugar for topping (optional)

Confectioner’s sugar for dusting (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line two 12-cup muffin tins (or two giant 6-cup muffin tins). Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest. Pour in the melted butter, eggs, orange juice, and vanilla, and stir just until evenly combined.

Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pans, filling each cup about 3/4 of the way. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar on top, if using.

Bake 15-20 minutes (or 20-25 minutes for giant muffins), or until slightly golden on top. A cake tester should come up clean with just a few moist crumbs attached.

Let cool in pan 5 minutes, before transferring to wire rack.

Creamy Vanilla Bean Cashew Milk (Vegan)

I'm not vegan (you guys totally know that already), but I love non-dairy milks like this DIY Vanilla Bean Cashew Milk.

Creamy nut milks, especially homemade ones, are absolutely lovely. I enjoy a chilled glass over ice in the morning, or something warm in the evening, spiked with a bit of rum and cinnamon. On days when I'm on the go and don't have time to stop for a proper meal, a glass of the creamy protein-rich drink is a perfect snack.

You can easily buy non-dairy milks at just about any grocery store or market, but the homemade ones are so much better for drinking on their own. They're creamy and rich and have the loveliest nutty flavor. They're the best for making smoothies, dairy-free chocolate milk or iced coffee drinks, though note that they'll separate if you add to hot coffee.

(It's not bad to drink, but also not very pretty to look at.)

All nut milks are made following pretty much the same process, but I think cashew milk is the best of all because the soft nut purees almost entirely into the water, which means you don't lose out on any fiber. It makes it a bit thicker than your standard almond or soy milk. And cashews have a lovely natural sweetness that makes the whole thing super luscious.

You'll notice that the recipe requires some soaking time. There are a few reasons that this soaking step is important. The first is that soaking activates and breaks down the naturally occurring phytic acid that's in all nuts. This acid makes digestion tricky (and it's why eating too many nuts can sometimes cause an upset stomach), but soaking helps release it. Soaking also helps soften the nuts so that you can puree it into the smoothest beverage possible.

A whole vanilla bean infuses everything with a wonderful fragrance that will then make it a great base for other drinks (or for enjoying plain!). I don't sweeten my nutmilk, but you absolutely can; a bit of stevia or some honey or maple is all you need. I recommend starting with just a pinch and adding more to taste. These naturally sweet cashews really don't need much!

If you love this one, also check out my DIY Pecan Milk and my Chocolate-Hazelnut Milk, which is like the nut milk version of Nutella!

Vanilla Bean Cashew Milk Recipe
Yields about 6 cups

2 cups raw cashews
3 cups filtered water (for soaking) + 5 cups filtered water for pureeing
Sea salt (if you can get a mineral rich salt like celtic sea salt, use that! If not, regular sea or kosher salt is fine.)
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise

Combine cashews, 3 cups filtered water, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt in a shallow container. Make sure all nuts are covered (add more water if necessary). Soak at room cool temperature for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

Drain cashews well and give a quick rinse. Add to a blender along with 5 cups filtered water and a small pinch of sea salt (about 1/4 teaspoon).  Puree at least 5 minutes or until very smooth.

Pour through a fine mesh sieve into a large glass mason jar or carafe with a lid. There shouldn't be too many solids, but discard anything that doesn't go through. Drop the split vanilla bean in, cover and chill at least 4 hours.

Shake before serving. (The vanilla flavor will get stronger the longer it infuses.) Keep refrigerated; keeps well about 5 days.

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