Strawberry Basil Chocolate Cake

As summer comes to a close, I find myself longing for the fruits and herbs most reminiscent of the height of summer..i.e basil and strawberries.

I decided to embark on crafting this unique cake after watching an episode of The Great British Bake Off (one of the best shows on Netflix, in my humble opinion)

This cake is an amazing mix of sweet, bitter, bright and tart. The sweetness derived from the icing perfectly complements the bright taste of the basil and I could not have been happier with the flavor profiles.

I modified this recipe, though, to add more jam to the center layer, since I believed it needed more of the strawberry flavoring to even out the basil frosting.


Strawberry jam filling:

2 cups of strawberries

1 1/2 cups of organic cane sugar

Chocolate Cake:

1 3/4 cups of flour

1 cup of cocoa powder

1 3/4 cups of organic cane sugar

2 teaspoons of baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

2 large eggs

1/2 cup canola oil

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup boiling water


15 Basil leaves, chopped and shredded

1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter

8 oz of mascarpone

3 cups of powdered sugar

pinch of salt



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Get the basil emulsifying with a bit of water in a sauce pan and add the butter. Let simmer for 15 minutes while stirring occasionally. Once they are combined, separate the basil leaves from the butter mixture with a colander. Put the butter mixture in the fridge in a small bowl and wait 10 minutes for it to become smooth and creamy. Next, whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients except for the boiling water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and add in the boiling water once the two are combined. Grease a cake pan and pour in the cake mixture. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. With the butter cream mixture, add the mascarpone, powdered sugar and salt. While this is mixed and waiting in the fridge, combine the strawberry and sugar with some lemon juice and lemon zest over a sauce pan and let simmer until the mixture is gelatinous and ready to spread in the middle of the two cake layers.

Wait to frost until cake is cooled.


Carrot Cake Zucchini Bread


2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cracked sea salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup coconut oil

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large carrots

1 medium zucchini

1 cup shredded flakes coconut

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp vanilla


These ingredients can be easily modified to fit your needs, as I do prefer to add in extra cinnamon and extra vanilla and cinnamon to most of my baked goods:)



Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease bread pan with coconut oil thoroughly.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.


In a separate bowl, combine the sugars, eggs, zucchini, carrots, and coconut oil.


Combine the wet and dry mixtures together and add in the coconut flakes at the end. This should make for a pretty wet mixture, as pictured below. Spoon into bread pan and you are all set to go!

Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until knife comes out clean!



Date Brownies

As an easy and less expensive way to pack in daily amounts of protein and fiber, these brownies take no more than 30 minutes to whip up.


1 cup of dates

3/4 cup of hot water

1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Trader Joe’s Cocoa Powder)

3/4 cup of almond meal (significant source of protein)

5 tablespoons of honey

2 teaspoons of bourbon vanilla (Again, from Trader Joe’s)

Pinch of sea salt


Set the oven to 350 degrees

Combine the hot water and dates in a bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain water from the bowl and pour the dates into a food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy. Add in the almond meal and blend until combined. Do the same with the cocoa powder. Then, add in the honey and vanilla to finish it off. Scoop the mix out of the food processor and press into a brownie pan. Sprinkle sea salt over brownies to complete!



Designer Spotlight-Afghanistan

As a contributor and participant in western fashion culture, I am well aware of how is easy it is to develop a lens which crowds out the importance of reviewing and understanding modes of dress in non-western countries, and how those modes of dress relate to fashion, culture, and personal style. Our own perception of what fashion means in the west may be completely different than what clothing means to another culture. In the case of Afghanistan, years of war, years of being stuck inbetween the convergence of the British and Russian empires, and years of consequent suppression have all lead to an interesting matriculation of resultant cultural clothing options.

The first designer I am going to cover, Nawed Elias, grew up in the village of Zazai in Kabul, Afghanistan. Here he finds his inspiration for his later designs. He ends up in Amsterdam at the age of 14, where he finds a meeting ground between the western culture in Amsterdam and the beautiful village he grew up in. The two angles are conflicting, but he marries the two and creates beautiful and inspiring garments. This proves how a designer can successfully receive credit for appropriately disbursing his culture to the fashion world in an authentic way. This is so important when considering all of the unique cultures which are underrepresented, undervalued, and often times appropriated and assimilated into western culture by western media sources and fashion. Nawed’s way of creating with Zazai has allowed for his brand to have a serious and authentic voice in the western fashion world while staying true to himself and allowing for the western world to digest other cultures in a respectful and truthful way. Designers like Nawed give me hope and are incredibly inspiring. His designs do not aim at being overtly political, rather they aim at warning away today’s generation from the suppressive war lords or forces of evil that persist in Afghanistan.

Link to his website:

He uses “eyeliner” on the male models who walk his designs down the runway. This “eyeliner” perceivedly thought so by western culture, is actually not eyeliner used in the traditional sense as we know it for beautification purposes. Rather, it is a crushed rock mixture which possesses healing powers for one’s eyesight. The application of this substance around the eyes is a religious one, and is oftentimes thought to bring religious benefits when worn on Friday’s. This practice is done throughout Afghanistan with both men and women, but most men in cities discontinue the practice after the age of six while the men who live in villages decide to continue it for the rest of their lives.

The next designer I want to cover is Zolaykha Sherzad. She is the founder of Zarif, a brand which has made similar commentaries on past and present tragedies and turbulence in Afghanistan, but takes a different angle in the sense that she seeks to empower the 60% female workforce she works with in hopes of dignifying and reviving their Afghan heritage. In doing so, these women assume a certain amount of risk in using their actions to make statements about pursuing independence and professional lives in order to create stability for themselves and their children. Zolaykha sees no reason for why there can’t be a mutually beneficial relationship much like what the silk road brought to so many countries and their economies between western countries buying and selling each other’s goods and creating a subsequent respect for each other’s cultures as the west buys more traditional, stylish clothing from Afghani artisans, Afghanistan can afford to invest in more technological advancements provided by western countries in return. It is this kind of symbiosis that design labels like Zarif are trying to achieve, which could prove to be vital to economies via something as “trivial” as fashion and design.

Link to her website:














Inventory Excesses

The Industry’s Problem:

One of the problems weighing heaviest on the minds of retailers is the issue of excess inventory. This problem is seen when retailers buy too many of one style before comprehensively analyzing how these styles will be received by the consumer market. The result is an obvious deadweight to not only the brand’s vitality, but the environment suffers adverse effects as well.

Stopping wasted dead inventory space could equate to the same amount of sales coming into the store as increased foot traffic on any given day. Ways to cut down on inventory space are traditionally taxing on brands, such as ordering bulk fabric and drawing out the body of the garment at a later date, figuring out the style later on then opting for express shipment, and also spreading risk across product assortments so if one assortment goes south, multiple other assortment options can save the unsuccessful options.

All of the options listed above are preventative, yet time consuming and costly measures to rid of excess inventory.

There are methods, though, which do not leave retailers in the lurch.

Spending more time on specs, grading and perfecting fit will ensure more product bought due to higher consumer satisfaction. A serious re-focusing on what retailers actually NEED is crucial. Most retailers and their buyers are quick to diminish their open to buy margins, when in reality that money could be smartly invested in better sizing, more efficient transportation technology, or better product investment.

How can these areas come into effect? A trifecta of three mechanisms working together closely-the designer, the merchandiser, and arguably the most crucial-the consumer themselves. If these three entities can become a vehicle for brainstorming new ways to streamline the problem of excess inventory, each link will find they are saving money, happier with their purchases, and happier with brands themselves.

What can you do?

As a consumer it is so important to consider for yourself-wouldn’t you much rather have the perfect pair of jeans instead of a few “ok” pairs? Wouldn’t you much rather have a handful of go-to, timeless tops than a closet full of clothing that just misses the mark by a slight margin?

These are things to consider when you are making an impulse buy, and if these thoughts are acted on, they have the potential lessen the excess inventory of brands and continue to push them in the positive direction of buying less and decreasing their copious amounts of unnecessary inventory.

Couture Week

Every year, all eyes are on Paris when couture week rolls around. The absolute best of the best is expected and both editors and fashion lovers alike await impatiently for nuanced and luxurious silhouettes to appear on the runway.

This year, though, things were different.

As streetwear and couture have become increasingly synonymous, the industry is struggling to maintain it’s grasp on what couture has traditionally meant in the past and the result is an amass of jumbled sportswear and pre-fall. Although I am not a stickler for tradition per se, I am indeed an advocate for upholding the standards of luxury, and afraid of what materials, people, and design will be sacrificed by the designers who are trying and failing so utterly hard to mimic the likes of Vetements and Proenza Schouler in their pursuit to execute quality streetwear pieces.

Should there not be a place for these designers at Paris Couture week? I believe there should absolutely be a place for them, but do not believe that other brands should be so quick to lessen their own couture images for the sake of homogenizing themselves with what is now becoming the high fashion “norm.”

If this is the direction that designers are choosing to go, in effort to “street wear-ize” their fashion lines, emotion and craft are going to have to reign over the overall tone of the collections instead of mimicry and watered down couture. Let us hope that couture week can be a platform for these ideas and concepts to evolve into the rare air that luxury should and has the potential to still represent.

There is no reason why the continuous drops of clothing out of collections and genius fashion calendar planning (such as Vetements) cannot also be a scaled down version of the calendar for every other major fashion brand.  Less frequent shows (forget pre-fall and resort wear bs) to combine fashion lines into polished and see now buy now concepts will rid of over-production, and make room for the previously mentioned necessities of creativity and emotion driven designs.

Valentino was a perfect example of genuine creativity expressed in a rather abnormal design aesthetic for the brand. Pierpalo Piccioli brought a truly sentimental show to Paris.


Valentino Couture Fall 2017


Valentino Couture Fall 2017


Valentino Couture Fall 2017


The rest, such as Dundas and Dior, fell sadly short of this.


Dundas Couture Fall 2017



Dior Couture Fall 2017


Beet Crust Pizza

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Beet Crust Pizza with Goat Cheese, Sweet Corn and Pesto

For the crust:

1 Packet of Active Dry Yeast

1 Cup of Water

17 Ounces of All Purpose Flour

3/4 Cup of Pureed Beets

2 Teaspoons of Honey

For the Toppings:

3 Medium Sized Beets

2 Hard Boiled Eggs

Dollops of Goat Cheese

1 1/2 Ears of Sweet Corn



For the Pesto:

1/4 Cup of Pistachios

1/8 Cup of Pine Nuts

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1/4 Cup of Parmesan

1 Heaping Cup of Sweet Basil

Salt and Pepper to Taste


Stir the water and active dry yeast together until fully dissolved and even throughout the mixture. Mix in the honey with the pureed beets and add flour and pureed beet mixture to the yeast mixture. Knead dough for 5 minutes until fully combined and the magenta color of the beets is mixed in evenly. Next, cover and let sit for an hour and a half. After the dough has sat for that amount of time, divide into two crusts and put in fridge to rest for an hour. The toppings are for one small pizza, and the other crust can be saved in the fridge to use later on.

Roll out the beet dough until it is your desired size and shape. Combine the ingredients for the pesto, and spread evenly over the dough. Put on dollops of the goat cheese, lay over the sliced hard boiled eggs and beets, and finish off with the cooked sweet corn.

Olive oil the surface of a pizza stone and lay the pizza down on the stone. Bake at 500 degrees for 6 minutes.

Finish with arugula topping.


Cashew Whole Wheat Waffles with Raspberry Rhubarb Compote

For this breakfast, I ground cashews and combined the cashew meal (dust, really) with the wholewheat flour to create an extremely well proportioned flour with both the richness of the cashews and the heartiness of the whole wheat flour. I loved how well this recipe came together and is a great option for a brunch that is a little bit on the heartier side.


For the Waffles:

3/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour

1/2 Tsp Baking Soda

1/4 cup +1 Tbsp Sugar

1/2 Cup Milk

1 Tsp Lemon Juice

1 Lg Egg

Handful of Cashews

1 Tbsp Coconut Oil

1 Tsp Cinnamon

1 Tsp Nutmeg

1 Tsp Vanilla


For the Compote:

1/3 Cup Rhubarb

Juice of 1 Whole Lemon

1/2 Cup of Water

1/3 Cup of Superfine White Sugar

Zest of 1 Whole Lemon



Simmer the water over medium heat and when it just begins to boil add the rhubarb, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Let reduce for a few minutes and then add the sugar

Once there is barely any water left, strain the mixture with a colander and work all of the syrup out of the fruit mixture by pressing down on the fruit

The fruit left in the colander will be the mixture you add the fresh raspberries to. Once combined, you have your finished compote product.

Directions for the waffle mixture:


Combine the dry ingredients into a large bowl and the whisk the wet ingredients together in a smaller bowl. Pulse the cashews until fine and add into the mixture. Carefully combine the two mixtures and fold into the waffle iron!



Milan Men’s Fashion Week 2018

Moving onto the grandeur of what is Paris Fashion Week, I find it necessary to re-cap a couple of the incredible events that occurred at Milan Men’s Fashion week. I don’t know if it is just me, but I certainly can’t help but to realize how incredibly articulate men’s fashion has become in addressing the need to fill the somewhat unspoken creative gap between menswear and women’s. The most obvious fact, though, one which is becoming increasingly unavoidable and important in both mens and women’s high fashion, is the necessity to imbue a fashion line with message or meaning. Art, especially satirical fashion and art, (i.e. Thom Browne’s Moncler show this year…which in my opinion fell flat and left much to be desired) is gaining more of a relevancy as the need to parallel the aura of instability we are surrounded with, with absolute satirical messages.

Somewhere in between these two bookends, I believe, is where menswear fashion made breakthroughs and geniuses this season.

A quote from Miuccia Prada stood out to me in particular and once again grazed the juxtaposition of instability and uncertainty with complete whimsy. “You have to embrace the new world, but you don’t want to lose your essential humanity,” “Do you put them together, or keep them separate? The whole world is facing this challenge.” Although she is targeting technology in this quote, it seems to encapsulate the whole state of rapid and constant change in our world. So, in the midst of all of this, fashion and art can help us dissect rationales for ourselves and for our current state of humanity. It serves as a navigator, as a statement to the world, as a comfort, and an absolute way to connect with your own humanity and disseminate it to others.

Above: Prada Menswear Spring 2018 Runway Look

Below: Prada Menswear Spring 2018 Handbags with comic designs

(Commenting on the simplicity of comic books yet the disorganized chaos comics represent-using this to comment on the organization yet chaos technology has created as well)

Next, I cannot go without commenting on Fendi’s runway presentation. The entire show wowed me from beginning to end, not so much with it’s inherent conceptuality or anything of that sort, but rather with this crisp, powerful presence served up with a complete dosage of nostalgia. Sylvia Venturini Fendi has always had an obsession with never settling for the normalcy of “normal” and steered this collection in the direction of Warhol influences over what office life represents today. Through contrasting the two, the result is Wall Street meets Warhol, defining the millennial office culture as subversive to banality and expressive to liberal dressing.

Pictured below: Fendi Menswear Spring 2018

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Lemon Rhubarb Glaze

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetThis recipe is an absolute quintessential must-have on your summer baking list, but with a twist. The sour lemony glaze on top mixed with the tart rhubarb makes for a perfect finish and completes an otherwise perfect dessert.


For the Crust:

1 Cup all purpose flour

1 Cup cake flour (to make this, if you do not have cake flour on hand, combine 1 cup of flour with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, removing two tablespoons of the flour and replacing with the cornstarch)

3 Tablespoons powdered sugar

1/4 Cup salted butter

1/2 Cup Crisco

1 Egg

2 Tablespoons of white vinegar

1/4 Cup of ice water


For the Filling:

2 1/2 Cups strawberries

2 1/2 Cups rhubarb

1 1/2 Cup sugar

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1 Tablespoon all purpose flour

1 WHOLE large lemon zest

1 WHOLE large lemon juice

1 Teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 Teaspoon nutmeg

1 Teaspoon vanilla bourbon extract (Trader Joe’s)

1 Egg White


Directions for Crust:

Since I am a firm believer that your hands are your best kitchen tools, I went ahead and used my hands to combine the Crisco, salted butter, flour, cake flour and powdered sugar. Next, whisk the entire egg, vinegar and water together in a separate vessel and pour over the combined flour and butter mixture. Gently knead these ingredients together until just combined and then dust with flour, cover, and leave in fridge while you start on the filling.

Directions for Filling:

Once the crust is put away in the fridge, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Next, for the filling, I was ecstatic to be able to use fresh locally picked strawberries and rhubarb from my local farmer’s market in Madison. Combine all of the freshly chopped strawberries and rhubarb pieces into a larger bowl and pour the sugar in, along with the lemon, lemon zest, spices, vanilla, cornstarch and flour. Stir these ingredients together and let macerate until everything is combined. By this time, the crust ingredients should be sufficiently chilled and ready to divide into two. Roll the first ball of dough, using flour as needed, for the bottom of the pie. Fill with the fruit mixture and top with the second half of rolled dough to create the top of the pie. Seal the edges and poke holes in the top crust. Seal the rims of the pie with tinfoil and bake the pie at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 and cook for another 40. Remove from oven, let cool for an hour, and enjoy!