Some Recipes I've Been Meaning to Share

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For many, many years I have loved my favorite chocolate cake recipe. But my sister Susie's is even better. This cake is awesome. It's dense, moist, perfectly chocolatey, and, I don't know, but there's just something really sophisticated and steady about this cake. It tasted as good as it did on the third day as it did on the first day. I agree with Susie. This is the

Best Chocolate Cake in the Whole Wide World

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (we used Cacao Barry Extra Brute, which she says is the best)
1 1/4 cup hot water
3 cups brown sugar
2 2/3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
9 oz. butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup (warmish) water

Preheat oven to 350 F, unless you have a convection oven. I have a convection oven and we baked this at 315 F and it came out perfectly. Grease and flour (or use cocoa powder instead of flour if you aren't going to frost the sides) two 9" round baking pans, and maybe throw a few cupcake papers in some cupcake tins in case there is more batter than you need. (Note: I use this 6" x 3" cake pan for my little cakes. The baking time is almost twice as long. I slice the cake into thirds when cool.)

Mix the hot water with the cocoa powder and let it sit for a few minutes until the cocoa is dissolved. Combine the brown sugar, cake flour, baking soda, and salt — paddle (we used a Kitchen Aid mixer, but you could use a hand mixer on low) until it is all combined and looks consistent. Add the cocoa water to the dry ingredients and beat on low until combined. (Side note: She was not happy with how fast my lowest Kitchen Aid speed was — we had to put a big dish towel over the mixer to keep the batter from flying out of the bowl everywhere, so be careful.) Cut up the butter into smaller pieces and add to the batter. Paddle for about 3 minutes on low. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. Beat eggs lightly and mix them with the warmish water and the vanilla. Add these wet ingredients to the batter in thirds until just combined. Scrape down the bowl a lot. Pour batter in the cake pans until they are 2/3 full. Bake for 22 minutes and then check them; a toothpick poked into the center should come out clean. The cake might take 15 more minutes, but you don't want to overbake it. Let the cakes cool in their pans, then remove and frost with Cloudburst Frosting. (Please also read my notes there about this frosting; you have to beeeeeeeeeat it a lot lot.) Decorate to your heart's content! I used crazy-good fresh blackberries and mint leaves.



I also made up this soup. I almost never make up any recipes but I have to confess I was super happy with this one, and everyone else seemed to like it, too (including my brother-in-law, who ate it out of a glass dish that Andy and Susie brought to him at the bar where they were meeting after he got off work to play pinball [in his suit, unless they brought him a t-shirt, too, I don't know]. I just thought the image of him eating this in a bar was so hilarious).

Curried Potato-Shrimp Chowder

2 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
2 gloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons good yellow curry (I use Dean and Deluca's)
Salt and pepper
1 quart chicken broth
2 ears fresh corn (you could use frozen; I'm not sure how much that would be, maybe 1 to 1 1/2 cups?)
1/2 pound fresh shrimp, cut into bite size pieces
1 cup fresh or frozen peas, thawed
A handful of fresh basil, chopped
1 or 2 little ripe tomatoes, peeled and de-seeded, then chopped up, just 'cause I had them
*1 can coconut milk

In a large stock pot, fry the bacon until it is crispy then remove it from the pot and let it drain on some paper towels. Pour out the bacon grease and then add the olive oil to the pot. When it's hot, add the onions, carrot, celery, and potatoes and sautee until the vegetables are starting to brown. Add the garlic and the curry powder and the salt and sautee for a few more minutes until it's really fragrant. Add the chicken broth and simmer the soup until the potatoes are tender (I like them quite tender, almost mushy). Add the corn, fresh shrimp, peas, and bacon (thanks for catching this JenW!) and simmer until the shrimp are cooked and the corn and peas are heated through. Add the basil and some chunks of fresh tomato and chow down (at the bar).

Hopefully I got these recipes right [bites nails nervously]! I get very nervous posting recipes!!!

*DRAT: I was just at the store getting ingredients to make this again and realize that I forgot to mention: We also added the thick part of one can of coconut milk, too! You could leave it out but it's really good with it in. I am really sorry I forgot about this!

Late-Summer Slow

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The air conditioning was on, and then it was off. We sat in the river almost all day on Friday (the hottest), but by Saturday it was strangely cool and weirdly gray and wanted to rain (though it never really did). I sat in the dining room working and drinking hot chai in a long-sleeved blouse with the breeze blowing through all the windows so insistently that I was cold (and pleasantly confused, and pathetically relieved).

I made pasta with our gorgeous little tomatoes, pasta with olive oil and a little garlic, swirled around with the fresh tomatoes (which were so easy to peel, even raw, without blanching), a handful of basil (also from the garden), and big chunks of fresh mozzarella. Mama mia, that was some good dinner.

I keep forgetting to write out the chocolate cake recipe and the soup recipe! Okay, this week.

I did eat some Indian rice pudding. I could eat rice pudding every day if given the chance. I got mine from a take-out restaurant this weekend, but sometimes I make it.

Alicia's Kheer

4 c. milk
1/2 cup basmati rice
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

(I don't know if this is really a traditional kheer, but I like it.)

Rinse well and then soak basmati rice in cold water for a half an hour. Combine milk, rice, condensed milk, and sugar in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until milk is reduced by half and pudding is thick (or however you like it). Add cardamom, stir, and let cool to room temperature before serving.

I have a sleepy puppers on my lap right now. I wish I could lounge with her (actually, I wish I was that girl on the black pony up there) but we are in full ornament-kit production mode, so it's time for bad Lifetime movies, gallons of iced tea, and several hours of repetitive motion arranging little piles of wool felt. Love it!!!

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I was at the park early this morning, trying to beat the heat. It's going to be hot here these next few days. One hundred degrees plus. Naturally, I am terrified.

Summer Sweetness

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August has a glow. There was twilight birdsong all around us in the field. I cried in the sunset. My sister's visit has been wonderful. The world spins and spins. The flowers. The nights. The years.


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I finished my dress today and I just love it. The vast majority of things I try to make for myself look totally horrideous, which is why I hardly ever try to make anything for myself. But I love this (though I had to fuss with the pattern quite a bit). I used mostly cotton lawn, except for the bodice front/back which is regular quilting-cotton-weight. I apologize, but I don't really know what the fabrics are named or remember where I got them (but mostly all locally, and I have a decent size collection of Liberty Tana Lawn from local and various on-line sources). I just collect fabric whenever I see something I like, and am useless with the details. This dress is made mostly of rectangles or versions of rectangles. It's all very floaty and light, with lots of folds and drapes and gathers everywhere. Rather Vanessa Bell–ish, I thought.

The Sigur Ros show at Edgefield last night was exquisite. We have been big fans for many years but this was our first time seeing them live. Lovely, gentle, amazing people. The evening just couldn't have been more beautiful.

The garden is entering the late-summer phase. I think I'm supposed to be thinking about fall/winter planting. I replanted beets and kale already. Maybe I'll plant more beets where the potatoes were . . . ? Half of my butternut squash blossoms fell off, and a bunch of the leaves. A couple of the other little squashes just shrivelled up into little puckered things. Wah. :(

It's a quiet day here. Bright and breezy and we have no plans. Wonder of wonders. I shudder with pure delight.

Summer Swell

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Dude, did you see my garden potatoes? I AM PSYCHED.

Tonight, curried potato, corn, and shrimp chowder. And it's finally cooled off so we can make the choco cake. I'll write out the recipes when I get a sec.

You know how when your one sister goes out to lunch with your other sister for the afternoon and you should be doing some chores that you've been blowing off while you're home alone but instead you decide to make an Afghani nomad dress? So weird when that happens, I know.

High Heat

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Hot, hot heat this past weekend. We sat in chairs in the river all afternoon. Best day I've had in ages. Leaves fell from the trees on the bank and flashed silver as they spun toward the dark water. Even in the heat there was a glimmer of autumn. My sister made grilled peaches glittered with lemon zest and mint. August in a bowl. We've watched hours and hours of the Olympics. Coolest sport = trampoline! The electricity went out last night for several hours. I macrameed a bracelet until it was too dark to see. Needless to say, at 102 degrees no baking or oven cleaning has happened. Though we did make a trip across town to buy pearl sugar for yeasted waffles. Priorities.


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My crew was busy assembling floss packets for ornament kits this week. (Yes, amazingly, it's that time of year again!) For the majority of the early summer I had pretty much decided that I probably wouldn't design an ornament kit this year, just because I've been so busy with the web site and am fried. Then, one day when my computer was broken and I was sitting there with nothing to do for an hour and a half, I started drawing and wouldn't you know it three ideas for new ornaments popped out. I guess that's what it takes — a whole hour and a half with nothing to do and I can think of a major project to do. So the machine started it squeaky but irrepressible crank back up again. And so we will re-issue a limited edition of the past four years' ornament kits, as well as this new one, of which there have been glimpses around here lately and which is called Winter Cabin. Wouldn't you know it's probably my favorite one of them all. I love the palette for it so much. More details on the new kit (and the old kits) to come! For now, my trusty sidekicks assemble floss packs and I make them cappuccinos in the afternoon (good trade off for me, no?). I got this little stovetop espresso maker the other day, and the little milk frother I got last winter has been awesome. These were actually pretty good little cappuccinos, I was surprised!

Hot coffee in the afternoon will probably be a thing of the past this weekend — it's supposed to get up to the high 80s and maybe even 93 over the weekend. Once again, it's only 59 right now so I am enjoying that while I can. Thank you for the perfume recommendations!!! I ordered several testers from CB I Hate Perfume, which several of you recommended, I think. I can't wait for them to come. Maybe my sissy and I will spend a day searching around town for the others you recommended and having a smell-a-thon while she is here. I will report back. :-)

I didn't make the roasted corn soup above (it's from New Seasons), but I aslo have to think of some things to cook while Susie is here. Dear chocolate lovers, she says she has brought the Best Chocolate Cake Recipe in the Whole World with her. She told me I had to get this kind of baking chocolate (Cacao Barry Extra Brute), which I did, so I am ready to taste proof! I'm also hoping she might help me clean my oven with the self-cleaning function because I am afraid of it and need a professional chaperone. Do we know how to entertain our guests here, or what??? Perfume shopping and oven cleaning — thrilling!!!

***The seed pod in photo six is called scabiosa — thanks Jessica!

Best Weather Ever

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Mid-70s, sunny, gentle breezes. Perfect, rare, delicious weekend days. Best weekend weather I can ever remember in my entire life. We harvested beets and potatoes from our wee garden plot on Friday afternoon. It was silly exciting — you stick your hand in the ground and come up with a bunch of gorgeous Yukon Gold potatoes. Cube them up, add a couple of the tender onions you also pulled out of the ground, add one of the teensy heads of garlic you also pulled out of the ground, splash on some olive oil, shower with pepper and sea salt, bake at 375 degrees F for 40 minutes, add some butter when they come out and you have the best dinner ever. Oh, and do the same thing (without the butter — or are they good with butter?) to the beets. That you pulled out of the ground. The best dinner to go with the best weather. I almost cried. To think there are probably twenty-plus more potatoes still out there? Oh my stars. Next year I may just grow potatoes, onions, garlic, and beets.

The wee sidewalk garden has been such a good experience. I have loved it all so much this summer. I was sitting out there on the stairs last night, watching the beautiful twilight come on after such gorgeous weekend weather. I thought about how the butternut squash and the cucumbers are now trailing up the teepee where the peas grew last month. I thought about the day we put the peas in, months ago. Having a vegetable garden makes the summer seems different, somehow. I've never noticed all of it, or appreciated all of it — the ground and the water and the sun and the season — quite so much as I have this summer. Cliched but true. I like sitting out there every morning and every evening, watching it all change. I like fussing over the tidy little squares of rows. I don't really know what I'm doing at all but the stuff still grows. It's much different and a lot more satisfying to me than growing flowers and shrubs. I love the flowers and the shrubs, but the vegetables are different. Maybe because it's just a smaller area, with defined boundaries, and it feels like the right size for me when the rest of the yard feels too big and like too much (even though it's really not all that big). The vegetables also appeal to my utilitarian nature. I have always liked to make things that get used.

Also, it's just still so bewildering to me that it all worked. We put it in the ground and then it just worked out. I'm not used to that.

Something's blooming in the woods right now that makes allergic people go crazy but makes me happy. It's some kind of weed that I like the smell of but I don't know exactly what it is. I'd like to bottle the scent. Speaking of, I was thinking of buying some perfume. I haven't bought any in years and years. I want something that smells like the summer woods. Any recommendations?

On Thursday night we went to Edgefield with friends. I sat on the quilt and knit while listening to Steven Martin and his bluegrass band. He was hilariously funny. Our friend's eleven-year-old niece was visiting from Texas. She sat next to me and watched my hands while I knit. She asked me questions: Is it hard? How many things have you made? What's your favorite thing that you've made? Who taught you? We talked through the night and I won't deny that I hoped she might go back to Fort Worth with the spark of an idea about little sticks and string.


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Ah, yes. It speeds up now. I remember.

embroidered A


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.