Mini Blood Orange Bundt Cakes (& craftsmanship)

The doorbell rang. Edgar barked, all 20 pounds of him behind it, posturing, protecting. The postman was already down our stairs and onto the sidewalk by the time I got to the door. He waved back at me as I stepped outside, socked feet onto snowy stone.

There was a package waiting for me – brown, slightly battered, and heavy. I hauled it inside. I recognized the address, the stickers on the side.

If I thought Edgar had been interested in the mailman, it was nothing compared to how enamored he was the package. I tore into it – he helped. In it we found gifts from Nick – a friend, former coworker, and immensely talented woodworker.

Among the packaging and the padding we found three beautiful cutting boards. I pulled them out, one by one.

The first was a striped one, rectangular, made of different types of wood. The colors ranged from deep and dark to light, nearly white. These came from different trees, different places, coexisting solely as the result of Nick’s own handiwork.

The next was the same shape, but softer, with rounded edges and a warm, rich stain. It felt like butter between my fingers as I slid it from the box. Nick’s logo was burned into the corner, his brand on everything he made.

The last board was even more beautiful in person. A few weeks earlier, Nick had sent me a text, a picture of his creation. The board was outside on his woodpile, hanging from the slim handle.

“It looks like you.”

I knew what he meant in that text. It made even more sense when I finally felt the board, my hands closing around it on the bottom of the box. It was the thickest of the three, made of strong stock. It was solid. Curvy. Unique. It did look like me.

That’s the beautiful thing about being a maker. There’s an ability to turn the medium into a memory – personified and artfully crafted. Craftsmanship like that deserves an equally beautiful baked good.

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Wildcat Scones

I eat a lot. Are we really surprised? I think about what I’m going to be eating for lunch while making breakfast. I plan my breakfast whilst eating dinner. I make my own food and I eat out. The latter informs the former quite a bit.

Wildcat Scones | via Midwest Nice Blog

There’s nothing I love more than having an amazing dish when I’m out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and then attempting to recreate it in my own kitchen. The flavors or method or combination

Wildcat Scones | via Midwest Nice Blog

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Orange Cream Cake

Monday just got a whole lot better.

Orange Cream Cake | via Midwest Nice Blog

And Mondays for the foreseeable future will continue to be better. Here’s how! I’ll be posting a layer cake recipe from now until…well…until I decide not to.

Orange Cream Cake | via Midwest Nice Blog

I need to practice my layer caking skills for some friends’ wedding in March (Hi David and Annie!) because they have so graciously asked me to make their wedding cake!!! And I want it to be perfect for them.

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Winter Green Salad with Pomegranate & Orange

I eat a BAS almost every day.

Winter Green Salad with Pomegranate & Orange | via Midwest Nice Blog

What’s a BAS? Oh, just a Big Ass Salad. You know, one that doesn’t fit on a standard plate and really belongs in a mixing bowl. One so full of greens and veggies and fruits that it fulfills all daily nutritional requirements as advised by the FDA.

I can’t quite remember when it started to be an every day thing, but I think it was around the time I was working in an office, a tiny little cubicle, shoved in the corner with no windows and no desk mates.

Winter Green Salad with Pomegranate & Orange | via Midwest Nice Blog

I remember lunch being my favorite part of the workday. 30 minutes of freedom to go where I wanted, to sit in the sunshine and enjoy my meal. My meals started to consist more and more of vegetables because commuting for an hour each way and then sitting on my tush for eight hours a day took its toll.

I used to overfill Tupperware and then shove it in my backpack. Then I switched to big mason jars because sometimes I love hipster nonsense. I distinctly remember all my Tupperware and jars being dirty and taking a salad in a giant Ziploc baggie to work one day. Any way I could carry it, I was bringing a salad to the office.

Winter Green Salad with Pomegranate & Orange | via Midwest Nice Blog

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Pumpkin Cranberry Orange Muffins

I am a notorious over-packer. Always have been. When I was younger and would have sleepovers at my bff Mandy’s house, I’d leave home with a giant silver suitcase stuffed to the gills. It contained nothing but Barbie, her friends, Kens, and dream houses. Obviously, I’d save no room for clothes or pajamas that would actually be of use to me, but Barbie had enough outfit changes to rival Mariah Carey.

This need to overstuff and overfill my suitcase has continued on well into adulthood. Moving halfway across the country has done nothing to dampen my packrat ways. You can often find me schlepping at least two overstuffed suitcases and two precarious carryons along the arrivals sidewalk at the airport (thank heavens for Southwest and their two free checked bag policy. Life. Saver.)

When packing a bag, I’ve always had the mindset of “But what if I need it?” This, coupled with my biological predisposition to preparedness and planning has left me with sore shoulders and a dozen pairs of socks for a three day trip.

I thought I was getting better, I have really been trying. I managed t0 whittle down my purse to a little crossbody bag that holds little more than my cash, cards, and sunglasses. And this last time I went home, I not only took just a single bag, but there was room to spare in it! Of course, on the way back South, I had stuffed it so full of vintage Christmas lights and decorations I’d found at a thrift store it was full to bursting…

It’s not my fault though, it runs in the family! My grandma does the same thing when she comes to visit the Upstate from Wisconsin. She comes bearing gifts, lots of them – often in the form of fresh cheese or butter. One time, she somehow managed to get a box of Door Country Dried Cranberries here that weighed roughly the same as a toddler.

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