lemon yogurt olive oil cake

My birthday was yesterday, so tonight I’m having a little birthday dinner with my family. I decided to cook my own dinner rather than going out. I like a tradition I’ve noticed at a few food blogs of making an elaborate cake for one’s own birthday – most days in life do not call for elaborate cakes, but one’s birthday seems an appropriate excuse to make just the cake one would enjoy the most, right?

This cake is by no means elaborate, but it has a gorgeous, bright lemon flavor. One can’t really talk about cake and health in the same sentence, but with olive oil and tangy Greek yogurt, this is certainly healthier than the buttercream-laden grocery store concoctions I loved so much (so much!) at birthdays as a child. And my adult palate finds it way more enjoyable.

I sampled some before dinner (it’s my birthday cake; I’ll eat it whenever I please!), and I can say it is a perfect complement to a cup of afternoon coffee. It would also be an easy dessert to bring to any bbqs you may be attending this weekend – I know citrus is really a winter food, but it also seems summery and refreshing (like lemonade!). Not only is this cake easy to make (no mixer required!), but it is also easy to transport and not too messy to eat standing up. Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone!

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chocolate chunk cookies

These cookies are a step (or several) up from the standard chocolate chip cookie. Chocolate chips are made in a way that prevents them from melting too much in the oven – they get soft, but they don’t lose their shape. Good quality chocolate bars, on the other hand, don’t have any anti-melting agents in them. When chopped and mixed into cookie dough, regular chocolate gets nice and gooey in the oven, and thus makes the most delectable cookies.

We awoke this morning to loud banging outside our front door, and discovered that the landlords decided to hire people to tear up and repave the sidewalk. They conveniently neglected to tell us about this, so I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t have anywhere important to be today, as we haven’t been able to leave the apartment all day. I’d like to say that I made the best of things by baking these cookies, but I really baked them two days ago for a get-together yesterday.

I could also have made the best of being trapped indoors by clearing up the exam clutter still littering the apartment. Somehow half of my books made their way off my bookcases over the last few months, plus there are piles and piles of all kinds of papers that need to be put away somewhere/recycled/burned, etc.

I haven’t done this either (yet), but I did clean up some virtual clutter on this blog. I’ve created a “Recipes” page, which you’ll find towards the top right side of the page. It’s a sort of table of contents to the blog, which should make it easier to browse the different recipes I’ve posted thus far. I’ve also put “more” tags in all of the posts so that it’s less time-consuming to scroll down the home page. Hopefully these changes will make the blog a bit more user-friendly. One of these days I am going to learn some HTML so I can deal with some other pesky little things that annoy me about the page format. But for now, I’ve rewarded myself with the last leftover cookie, and will move on to tackling the real mess in my apartment once I’ve shared this recipe with you.

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roasted asparagus

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I haven’t posted in quite some time. This is because the last five months or so I’ve been preparing for Ph.D. Qualifying exams (which I passed last week, hooray). I thought that I’d be able to have super time management skills, and work on the blog during breaks from reading. As it turns out, “time management” during exam prep meant reading all day, every day. Needless to say, I am glad to be done with that now.

I did almost no cooking while reading for exams, and have slowly been easing my way back in this week, while of course taking time to celebrate with friends and relax. One way I’ve been relaxing is by watching episodes of Julia Child’s The French Chef, which has made me excited to cook again. I highly recommend these for anyone who loves Julia or wants to see what cooking shows were like before the days of the Food Network – they are so refreshingly unscripted (and consequently hilarious) in comparison. She always seems to be out of breath, unsure of where to stash things when she’s through with them, and frequently forgets what she’s trying to say mid-sentence. She screws up parts of recipes, and then very helpfully explains how to save the food if you’ve made a similar mistake – something I’ve never seen on contemporary food shows. They’re great fun to watch.

In any case, in the spirit of easing back into things, today’s recipe is so simple that it hardly deserves to be typed up as a recipe. This is the great thing about eating vegetables in season – you don’t have to do much to them to make them delicious. Mark and I were having a half-conscious conversation about canned vegetables and convenience late last night while trying to fall asleep (or, what is probably closer to the truth, I was mumbling some stuff about canned vegetables and Mark was wishing I’d shut up and go to sleep already). This recipe is a reminder that cooking fresh vegetables can be very quick and easy, not to mention much tastier than anything canned – it’s as simple as tossing with olive oil and baking for fifteen minutes while you finish preparing the rest of your meal. And if you want to be a bit fancier, you can spruce things up with some lemon zest, like I did.

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