All Posts Tagged ‘strawberries


If my family was dessert: my sister Genevieve


Champagne cake

My oldest sister is five years older than me to the day. Happy birthday, Genevieve!

I put off Part Two of the series If My Family was Dessert for a long time. What dessert could possibly represent the beautiful, smart young woman who has blown out more than twenty years worth of birthday candles with me?

What flavors capture crying at every Christmas movie we watch no matter how many times we’ve seen it? Is Promptly Replies to Emails No Matter How Bizarre My Request Is a boxed cake mix? And in what aisle can I find the seasoning that personifies the sister who would wake us up for school by saying Mac and cheese was on the breakfast menu?

Berry cake with mumm napa champagne

To the sister who is equal parts kindness, humility and fun, you are without a doubt champagne cake! This golden butter cake with champagne ganache nestled between each layer and topped with a chocolate glaze is the definition of sophistication with a side of whimsy. As are many older sisters, the directions are somehow both sensitive and demanding in a way that makes complete sense by the end.

The ganache combines champagne, vanilla and brandy with melted bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate chips. After spreading the layers and sides with ganache, a chocolate glaze coats the top and sides. You can see your face in the glaze’s reflection! (Certainly there’s a metaphor here.)

By time I got to try this rich layer cake (three days after I started making it), I realized the directions were right all along and as is almost always the case with Big Sister Advice, I’m glad I listened to the directions yadda yadda you were right all along there I said it.

Chocolate layer cake pre-glazePost-double glaze

Genevieve is the rare kind of person who brings out the best in people simply by being in the room. She never settles for less than the best and she challenges those around her to do the same with grace and compassion.

I admire her ability to navigate change and look to her when I need anything from words of encouragement to a make-up recommendation, because chances are, she’s been there before or already bought that lipstick and is about to save me some moolah.

Layer of vanilla cake with chocolate ganache

When I was younger and less gracious than I’d like to admit I am now, I didn’t like sharing a birthday. As the youngest sister, I often feel like I’m playing catch up to my older two sisters. When I finally reached teenagehood at 13, my sister became an adult. (It doesn’t help that my sisters always move up the qualifying age for being an “official teenager.” Now that I’ve reached twenty-six, I think you’re not truly a teenager until you’re twenty-seven.) When I turned sweet 16, my sister turned 21, so on and so forth.

But now that I’m nearly a real teenager, I no longer look at the five years between us as space to catch-up. Having sisters is all sorts of wonderful, and I’m incredibly fortunate to have two of the best to look up to as incredible models who have navigated several paces ahead of me and regularly reassure me everything will turn out fine.

Top of the sliced open cake

There are many joys of sharing a birthday, but the number one by far is that we never celebrate alone. Happy birthday, birthday buddy! I’m raising a glass of champagne to you from D.C. and toasting to everything the upcoming year has in store for us – champagne cakes included!

(I used the champagne cake recipe from the cookbook Sweet by Valerie Gordon. Champagne ganache is found here. Milk chocolate glaze here.)


Berry summer salad

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Summer salad on a side table.jpg

Has a car ever passed you on your walk home and they’re blasting instrumental tunes, and the sun is shining perfectly through the trees, and everyone has a pep in their step because it’s Friday? This exact scene happened to me today, and it was delightful! For the three seconds someone else’s BMW drove past me, I felt like I was in a movie. And if you’re wondering if I was waiting for Alec Baldwin to round the corner or for a flash mob to break out in front of me, maybe Alec Baldwin in a flash mob? The answer is yes. Yes I was.

I also discovered we live next to a Labrador Retriever who walks around the block with a teddy bear in its mouth. Saw that little fella duck into his basement apt. right next door! If that wasn’t the most endearing thing I saw all week, then I don’t know what was.

Summer salad on a towel.jpg

I’m also not ashamed to admit this salad was another highlight of my week. Tell me you’ve never gotten excited over a meal, and I won’t believe you. I packed this bad boy for lunch three times, and if we’re being perfectly honest, I will likely eat it for at least two meals this weekend.

My secret with kale salads (please just skip this part if you and the whole world already know this) is to put your dressing directly on the kale first and foremost. If I’m packing it for work, I layer all the toppings on the bottom followed by the kale and then the dressing. If I’m at home, then I put the dressing on while I make the quinoa and cut up the fruit. The extra time the kale and dressing get to know each other softens the kale just enough to make even the world’s most avid kale naysayers ask for this recipe!

Happy weekend, friends. May all of us enjoy cars blasting instrumental music and the perfect amount of hair-blowing breeze all weekend long!

Half eaten strawberry held in the air.jpg

Summer Salad | Serves 1


Handful of kale with the stems removed

1/2C of cooked quinoa

4 strawberries

Handful of blueberries

Sprinkle of walnuts

1/2 chicken breast

1/4 avocado

2T of honey mustard dressing


  1. Mix and enjoy!

Summer salad peeking into view.jpg

*I specified the exact amounts of each item, but it feels so silly telling you to only throw 4 strawberries on your salad. Put as much of each item as you want! Swap the walnuts for almonds! Or the honey mustard with balsamic! Whatever your heart desires! And also, don’t bother to wait for the quinoa to cool. This salad is best served with quinoa at any temperature.