red velvet cake. all natural. no red dye.

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This cake ended up being a science experiment.

I wanted to make a red velvet cake without any red food coloring. Though I can handle a little food coloring here and there, the idea of putting in such large amounts into a homemade cake . . . well, I just couldn’t do it. I mean, why would I want to eat a cake that is red for no reason, other than the fact that someone calls it red?

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In my research, and the research of my sister (who actually inspired my making this cake after she had made an attempt at something similar), we discovered a number of people in the blogosphere that get quite uppity about what a red velvet cake is and isn’t. I won’t get into that. But I will say that many of these red velvet soap boxers were suggesting the color should come from beets.

So I started there.

My first attempt was brownish purplish. My daughter called it the Purple Satin Cake. It tasted good, so good in fact, that when I stood there, holding the last piece, thinking that I should snap a picture for the blog to show what it looked like, my will power buckled, and into my mouth it went. But it was still brownish purplish.

salade niçoise with sweet potatoes and anchovy chive dressing

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I have seen dozens of recipes for niçoise salad over the years. But to tell you the truth, they’ve never looked that appetizing to me. Maybe it’s my childhood aversion to green beans coming out, or maybe it’s that I expect the potatoes to be too bland and starchy. Even the niçoise salads with fresh ahi tuna never sparked much of my interest.

But I recently bought a copy of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook, and she features two niçoise salads: one cool, and one warm. The photographs of both make the salad look so rustic and inviting, that I began to reconsider my prejudice against the salad from Nice.

As for the potatoes, my mom and I have been replacing regular starchy potatoes with sweet potatoes lately—they’re higher in nutrients and flavor, so I thought I’d add those to the salad instead.

Not to mention, I have been getting these gorgeous eggs from my neighbor lately, so I knew the bright yolks would make the salad stunning to look at.

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I figured it was time to finally try my own version.

a mother’s day update

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I’m still finding chocolate fingerprints around the house. My three lovelies (what I affectionately call my kids on the best of days) came into my room—not too early—on Mother’s Day morning with this for breakfast: a grapefruit, warm water with honey and lemon, and strawberries with chocolate ganache. We added the bananas later when the strawberries started to run out. How’s that for kids that know their mommy? They’ve learned that my favorite breakfasts are ones that are less like breakfast and more like dessert.

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I was then flooded with a series of drawings, pop-up cards, and poems, along with these potted gerbera daisies, which were provided by my mother-in-law. I don’t like saying “ex-mother-in-law”—it sounds too harsh. For two years now, she had taken the kids for an evening, the week before Mother’s Day, to give me the night off, and lead my kids in creating some sort of extravaganza for me.

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key lime cream tart

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And this is really made with key limes. Or at least, I thought they were key limes. That’s what the store said they were. It turns out, they were just mini regular—or Persian—limes with seeds in them. Apparently, key limes are yellow and round—not tiny and green. But I don’t want to talk about that right now. It’s embarrassing.

This is what happened when I thought I was being the ultimate foodie. I found the “key limes” on sale a few weeks ago: ten for a dollar. I had never seen such a good price before, so I grabbed a bag and filled it with thirty lovely limes. I was so proud of myself for owning them, that first I had to photograph them.

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And then they sat around for awhile.

They sat around until I had nothing better to do than to juice thirty teeny tiny seeded citrus fruits. While I waited for the royal wedding to start, I buckled down and did it. I would juice about ten at a time, and then the acid would begin to burn so badly I would have to run to the kitchen, wash my hands, lotion them, and watch about a half an hour more of the wedding coverage. When my skin would calm down, I’d go back and juice a few more. I was being a true foodie martyr.

I guess I was expecting some magical Floridian taste to come through as payoff for my self torture, but in the end, I discovered my “key limes” tasted exactly like regular limes. And now I know that’s because they weren’t.

Anyway, you’ll know better. If something claims to be key limes, make sure they’re round and yellow. If you can’t find those, then by all means, buy yourself some regular, large, green limes, and make this. You’ll love it no matter what.

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