friyay happy hour: watermelon sangria

well this sangria was supposed to be posted for friyay, but then i started drinking at three. and you all know what happens when you day drink. 

we are up in tahoe with our good friends blake and morgan for the weekend celebrating the start to summer. this weekend is all about spending time relaxing by the lake enjoying good food, good company and good cocktails. 

i made this sangria a couple weeks ago for a ladies dinner party and i knew it was going to become my summer go to. it's hard to imagine, but it is even lighter than a standard sangria and the watermelon makes it so refreshing. be careful, this cocktail can be considered dangerous. basically it tastes like there isn't any booze in it. consider yourself warned.

watermelon sangria 
serves: 12 cocktails 
prep time: 15 minutes 
active time: 5 minutes 
total time: 20 minutes 
ingredients: 4 cups watermelon. 1 bottle dry white wine of your choice. 8oz vodka. 4 oz triple sec. 4 oz lime fresh lime juice. 3 kiwis, cut into .5 inch cubes. 1 cup blackberries, halved. 10 lavender flower blossoms. 
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start by juicing your watermelon. in a food processor, puree the watermelon till liquid. now you have a choice. if you like pulp and want the drink a bit junkier, you do not have to strain the liquid. if you like a smooth sangria, strain your watermelon juice. 
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then, in a large pitcher, combine all the ingredients. 
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stir well to combine. 
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serve over ice. 
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xo,a

watermelon sangria
serves: 12 cocktails
prep time: 15 minutes
active time: 5 minutes
total time: 20 minutes
ingredients: 4 cups watermelon. 1 bottle dry white wine of your choice. 8oz vodka. 4 oz triple sec. 4 oz lime fresh lime juice. 3 kiwis, cut into .5 inch cubes. 1 cup blackberries, halved. 10 lavender flower blossoms.
start by juicing your watermelon. in a food processor, puree the watermelon till liquid. now you have a choice. if you like pulp and want the drink a bit junkier, you do not have to strain the liquid. if you like a smooth sangria, strain your watermelon juice. then, in a large pitcher, combine all the ingredients. stir well to combine. serve over ice. 

tips & tricks: pickled nasturtiums seeds

at this moment, wes and i are currently weaving our way through thursday afternoon traffic in los angeles on our way out of town for the long weekend. i'll just let you digest that for a moment. 

but it will all be worth it since we are en route to south lake tahoe with friends for some much needed rest, relaxation and rejuvenation.

of course, it would not be a weekend away if there wasn't a wee bit of cooking. so i brought these "poor man's capers" with me to work on some recipes.

nasturtiums are going to seed all around us and i HATE letting things go to waste. i already dried plenty of seeds for next years garden and i still have hoards. i also hate buying pricy capers. so i am killing two birds with one jar of pickled nasturtium seeds. 

no nasturtiums around you?! come pick some up from my house! 

pickled nasturtium seeds

yields: 1 cup

prep time: 48 hours

active time: 3 minutes 

inactive time: 1 hour

total time: 2 days

ingredients: 1 cup nasturtium seeds. 2 cups water. 1 tbs kosher salt. .25 cup white vinegar. .25 cup apple cider vinegar. 1 tsp white sugar. 1 tbs pickling spice. 6-8oz mason jar.
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start by rinsing all your seeds making sure to remove any petal or dirt residue.

place the seeds in a bowl with the water and salt and allow them to soak in the fridge for two days.
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when you are ready to finish up your "capers" drain them from the water.

place the seeds in the jar with the pickling spice and sugar.
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combine your vinegars and pour them over the seeds filling up the jar. 
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close the lid and shake well to combine. allow them to pickle for at least an hour before enjoying but they will just improve with time.  use immediately or store in the fridge for up to 3 months.  
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xo, a

the chocolate cake

i know what you are thinking. why in gods name would she just GIVE me her chocolate cake recipe. 

well the truth is, it really isn't mine to give. it's ina's (the barefoot contessa) and she has already given it away. 

ina is pretty much my culinary goddess. when i was teaching myself to cook, nine times out of ten i would go with a barefoot contessa recipe. they NEVER let me down. and while i have adjusted most of her recipes that i started with, this one is tried and true.

if you are a chocolate cake fan, this is your holy grail. this cake is rich, but still light and fluffy. it's bold in flavor, but is still very moist. it's pretty much the perfect cake. it's great with cream cheese frosting, a classic butter cream or if you are like me, it's great on its own. 

THE chocolate cake
serves: 2 x 9 inch cakes or 1 9 x 13 sheet cake 
prep time: 10 minutes 
active time: 5 minutes 
bake time: 30-45 minutes
total time: 1 hour
ingredients: 1.75 cups ap flour. .75 cup cocoa powder. 2 cups sugar. 2 tsp baking soda. 1 tsp baking powder. 1 tsp salt. 1 cup buttermilk. .5 cup vegetable oil. 2 eggs. 1 tsp vanilla extract. 1 cup hot coffee. parchment paper. vegetable oil spray. 
start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees f. while your oven is preheating, prepare you pans. trace the size of your pans your are using onto the parchment paper and cut out a shape that fits into the bottom of the pan. spray your pan with oil and then set the parchment in the bottom. 
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in the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand blender, combine the eggs, buttermilk, oil and extract. 
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once the wet ingredients are well combined, turn the mixer to slow and add in the dry ingredients a bit a time. 
when your batter is well combined (it should be nice and thick), slowly add in the hot coffee. 
mix until just combined and smooth. 
pour the batter into the prepared baking pans. 
bake for 30-45 minutes depending on the size of the pan. you will know that the cake is done when you can insert a toothpick into the cake and it comes out clean. remove the cake from the oven and set to cool on a cooling rack. 

once the cake has cooled to room temp, remove your cake from the pans and use.
xo, a

THE chocolate cake 
erves: 2 x 9 inch cakes or 1 9 x 13 sheet cake
prep time: 10 minutes
active time: 5 minutes
bake time: 30-45 minutes
total time: 1 hour
ingredients: 1.75 cups ap flour. .75 cup cocoa powder. 2 cups sugar. 2 tsp baking soda. 1 tsp baking powder. 1 tsp salt. 1 cup buttermilk. .5 cup vegetable oil. 2 eggs. 1 tsp vanilla extract. 1 cup hot coffee. parchment paper. vegetable oil spray.
start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees f. while your oven is preheating, prepare you pans. trace the size of your pans your are using onto the parchment paper and cut out a shape that fits into the bottom of the pan. spray your pan with oil and then set the parchment in the bottom. in the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand blender, combine the eggs, buttermilk, oil and extract. once the wet ingredients are well combined, turn the mixer to slow and add in the dry ingredients a bit a time. when your batter is well combined (it should be nice and thick), slowly add in the hot coffee. mix until just combined and smooth. pour the batter into the prepared baking pans. bake for 30-45 minutes depending on the size of the pan. you will know that the cake is done when you can insert a toothpick into the cake and it comes out clean. remove the cake from the oven and set to cool on a cooling rack. once the cake has cooled to room temp, remove your cake from the pans and use.