Saturday, June 29, 2019

Mocha Chocolate Cake

  • Photo: Bon Appétit: Don't worry if your cake and frosting are lighter in color. This photo has a food styler who took liberties. It's the taste we care about.
    I tweaked a Bon Appétit recipe requiring cake flour and mascarpone frosting - neither of which I stock. Mascarpone cream is "Italian cream cheese." It is slightly richer than American cream cheese, but you can add rich cream or sour cream to compensate in taste.

    As it happens: There is always cream cheese in my refrigerator, but never, ever mascarpone cheese; and there is always all-purpose flour in my cupboard, but never, ever cake flour. I dislike a job (shopping) before doing a job (baking a cake). Nobody has time for that! IMHO: 99% of all cakes turn out just fine using all-purpose flour. I've never had trouble eating one! The difference is: All-purpose flour has slightly more protein than cake flour.

    Another reason, I altered the recipe is: My German mother conditioned me to think: American pastries are too sweet. So I usually reduce the sugar in cakes by 1/2 cup, or more when I can get away with it. If the cake batter is less sweet, you will taste other ingredients better like chocolate, vanilla, or coffee. After frosting I rarely miss the lack of 1/2 cup of sugar in the batter since frosting is mainly sugar. Don't mess with Mom when baking, she's usually right! Here is my recipe for --

    Mocha Chocolate Cake

    Ingredients for the batter:

    2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    3/4 cup natural unsweetened raw cacao (or cocoa) powder - I use cacao power.
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
    1 1/2 cups (packed) brown sugar (The original recipe calls for 2 cups, so you can up the sugar if you must. You get used to less sugar over time.)
    cup buttermilk
    3 large eggs
    1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    4 teaspoons instant coffee (or espresso powder) dissolved in 3/4 cup hot water

    Extra butter and flour to grease baking pans.

  • Directions for the batter:

    1) In a large mixing bowl, shift the dry ingredients together in order, one at a time. Add the buttermilk and blend with an electric mixer.

    2) Add one egg at a time, beating with the electric mixer.

    3) Add the vanilla and coffee dissolved in water.

    4) Beat about 2 minutes until uniform.

    5) Pour the batter into 2 buttered and floured 9" baking pans.

    6) Bake at 325 degree F in a pre-heated oven for 40 minutes, or until the centers are done. 

    7) Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pans to cool completely.

    Ingredients for the frosting:

  • 1/3 cup raw cacao (or cocoa) powder
    2 tablespoons instant coffee (or espresso) powder
    8 ounces cream cheese
    1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream; or sour cream
    A box of powdered sugar (not all is needed)
  • Bittersweet chocolate curls for garnish

    Directions for the frosting: 

    1) Using an electric mixer blend the ingredients until smooth. I add the powdered sugar from the box until I get a desired creamy, yet thick consistency.

    Feel free to use mascarpone cheese in the frosting recipe instead of my cream cheese substitutions if you have it. Either way, you will love this moist mocha chocolate cake. From Bon Appétit ...  bon appétit!🎂

    Should we once again turn a full cake recipe into a Single Serving Mug Cake? (Yes! I hear you, Trish of The Red Cardinal.)


    6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    Photo: Skint Dad

    2 tablespoons raw cacao (or cocoa) powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    a pinch of salt
    2 tablespoons butter
    2 tablespoons brown sugar
    3 tablespoons buttermilk
    1 tablespoon of egg (Use the rest of the egg for breakfast. Waste not, want not.)
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    1 teaspoon of instant coffee (or espresso) dissolved into about 1/8 of a cup of hot water (You'll need to eyeball the water.)


    Follow the batter recipe above↑ using the reduced ingredients. Grease and flour a mug and bake in the microwave for one minute, then 10 seconds at a time until the center is done.

    For the  Mocha Chocolate frosting, improvise using teaspoons of the ingredients in the order above until you get the taste and a desired creamy, yet thick consistency. Frosting is easy enough to eyeball!

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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Olay Regenerist Night Recovery Cream Face Moisturizer

Since I'm running low on Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream (the bottom red jar) which I like to dab on top of face serum right before bed, I went to buy another jar. However at Bed, Bath And Beyond, I noticed Olay's newest launch Olay Regenerist Night Recovery Cream Face Moisturizer (the white jar above) and instead bought it to try. The words, "advanced anti-aging night recovery cream" was all the hook it took. This youth-lotion-potion was coming home with me! 

The Olay Regenerist Night Recovery Cream Face Moisturizer is sold as a super hydrating formula containing amino-peptides to penetrate deeper layers of the skin. Reportedly, it has two functions: 1) encourages faster skin cell turnover; and 2) pumps up the skin with moisture to soften lines and winkles for a "velvety feel."

The face cream is non-greasy and absorbs easily into the skin. I do like it, but don't notice a real difference from the older moisturizer, Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream. They are both hydrating, the red jar a tad more. The white jar night cream is marketed for older skin and has one benefit not claimed by the red jar face cream -- namely it tightens the skin. IMHO it's a microscopic difference, not really noticeable. I probably like the red jar for hydration, just a hair more than the white jar. So in winter, I'd buy the red jar. If you, too, end up liking both fairly equally, now you have another choice and can buy the one that goes on sale.

Here at THE SAVVY SHOPPER, we embrace more consumer options in order to save when and where we can!❤️

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Friday, June 21, 2019

Rainbow Style

June is the month the LGBTQ community celebrates life, love and the enduring struggle for equality. In recognition many major retailers are launching an array of neon ultra cute clothing, shoes and accessories.

Tolerance, color, acceptance and a little retail therapy, it's all good! Let's join in with a roundup of rainbow style:

BCX - Big Girls Stripe Maxi Dress

Effy - Multi-Sapphires in 14K Gold

Steve Madden - Zaney Rainbow Pumps

Express - Love Unites Rainbow Striped V-Neck Gramercy Tee

Michael Kors - Men's Kent Printed Backpack

Converse - Multi Pride sneakers

Today's blog has plenty of eye-candy! Merchants and fashionistas together are making a colorful difference.❤️❤️❤️

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

B Weiss Water Flosser

In an effort to find an image to let you see the water flosser, we get the the advertising too.
I try to save on clothes, house goods, makeup and grocery bills, but I'll spend a bit on good dental hygiene. I hope to keep my teeth in tip-top shape for as long as possible. Realistically, teeth wear out like the rest of our bodies. After 50-60-70 years of chopping, they undergo wear and tear needing repairs. Yet good dental care should help us keep them permanently. No dentures!

As diligent as I am about brushing, like many people I hate flossing, and I don't think I do it properly. I also skip it sometimes ... because well, I'm human.

In an effort to improve (last year after my dental hygienist recommended it) I bought a Phillips Sonic toothbrush. After my dental checkup this June, I added a B Weiss Water Flosser -- the latter not upon her advice, but due to my desire to do better.

They do a good job of exercising your gums and removing any food stuck in-between your teeth. I don't often have particles stuck in-between my teeth, but sometimes I do have bleeding gums ... and therefore, the purchase. 

Know that if you properly floss your teeth daily, you don't need a water flosser. It's cheaper and effective to use dental floss. But if you, too, are only human, I can recommend a good basic water flosser.

Like a sonic toothbrush, there is no need to buy the most expensive one. I'm happy with my basic B Weiss Water Flosser. It does everything it should do! Fill the tank with tap water, select a setting (gentle, pulse, normal) and turn it on. Shift it from one side of your month to the other aiming in-between teeth. It takes practice (1st attempt, you'll shoot water everywhere!), but does its work in 30 seconds.

The water flosser comes with a charger, so you use it until a light indicator tells you to sit the unit in its charger for a few hours (same as other electronic devices).

As a bonus, the retailer hires people with disabilities to give back to the community. The company backs its employees, as well as, its water flosser. Highly recommend!

Note: A combination sonic toothbrush/water flosser exists and you might be tempted to buy one, but I don't recommend it. You pay more money for a device that has a bigger footprint, and when one part wears out, you must replace both! Buying separate units for about $40 each is a better deal.

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Sunday, June 16, 2019

A Happy Father's Day

I rarely post family photos, but will make an exception on this special 3rd Sunday in June. THE SAVVY SHOPPER is more of a writing than a picture blog. The content is primarily the written word over stills or video, but not today!

In honor of Father's Day, here are a few photographs of my father and me back-in-the-day.
When older and looking at this photo with Dad, I teased, "Look how you risked my life in standing me over an animal pit. I could have fallen into it. Dad replied, "I was looking around to see if anybody was watching before giving you a nudge." :) 
Here we are enjoying a sunny day.
However long we have our parents, it is never enough. We miss this amazing man everyday. No one can ever fill his shoes.
Here I am visiting home.
Hoping everyone has a #1 Dad and if not, you become the #1 Dad to your children. Happy Father's Day!

Inevitably, the cycles of life touch us all. "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night!" Listen to Welsh poet Dylan Thomas read his famous villanelle here, written for his own father.

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Smart Ways To Put Money In Your Piggy Bank

Photo: Freepik
A purchase that makes a person happy is money well spent. That said, there are certain things I skip in order to achieve bigger goals, such as to have an emergency fund, or buy a higher ticket item. In New York City I am sometimes surprised when people who are low on cash think nothing of dropping the few dollars they do have on temporary things like $2 bottled water, or $5 frappucchinos. If you apply yourself you can drink water and coffee for free! At the risk of outing myself as parsimonious, below are costs I shy away from ...

5 Smart Ways To Put More Money In Your Piggy Bank:

1) Subway and bus faresSavings: $5.50 a round trip - Walk if possible instead of paying for subways and buses. It's fantastic exercise! Other than for safety (late at night), distance (a trip to Brooklyn or Queens) or time (I'm running late) I walk everywhere.

2) Manicures and pedicures - Savings: $30 - $60 depending on the salon. Multiply by number of times per year!
photo; istock

While homeless after my building's fire, I tipped my hotel maid $40 one day. She was lovely and a diligent worker, a single mother who told me she lived at home with 8 people, including her two young boys aged 10 and 8 years old. At the time she said the following Saturday was her birthday, and she would spend her tip on a manicure. Indeed, it was her birthday, as well as, her money to do whatever she liked, but every person is different, and I tend to spend even windfalls on articles that last. In general, I say a woman in her 20s should experience a couple of manis and pedis; then stop going to the salon and trim and polish her own nails. Put the savings in a jar to see how it adds up! One day the sum will pay for something pricey ... a necessity, keepsake-luxury or vacation!

3) Coat checks - Savings: $5 to $10 - Whenever possible I simply hold onto my coat. Short of carrying it on stage to make a speech, nobody will notice if you keep your coat discreetly at your table. Middle class, bourgeois that I am ... I'd rather the $10 stay in my wallet to go for something I value.

4) Bottled water - Savings: $1 to $2 per bottle - Carry your own water from home and look for drinking fountains. In a pinch after washing your hands in a public bathroom, cup your hands to drink the running water from the tap. It's the same exact water that runs in the kitchen. Bonus: Save the environment by ditching the plastic.

5) Forgo coffee stops close to home - Savings: $3 - $7 - When I'm all alone, readers, I'm too cheap to buy a cup of coffee while out in my own neighborhood. With a friend I consider the expense of a neighborhood coffee shop inexpensive entertainment. However, me, myself and I will just have to make coffee for me, myself and I at home. On the other hand, if I'm in a neighborhood far away from home I will stop for coffee -- it then becomes an opportunity that only costs a few bucks to sit down; people watch; and take in the local color. Do my coffee-spending-choices make sense to anybody else?🐖🐷🐽

And, it goes without saying: Take advantage of any and all free samples of coffee sent by the Coffee gods (i.e. displays set up to promote products) while you are out shopping.

Where else to save: 

1) Ask yourself if you benefit from costly cable TV, or is free broadcast television combined with the internet and reading books enough to entertain you?

2) Examine your telephone habits: Do you need both a cell and home phone, or can you cut one? Then look at your telephone plan to see if you have the right cost efficient plan for you.

Spending more doesn't always give you a better quality of life. But mindful spending on things that matter usually does. As does living debt-free and freedom from work just to pay bills. What gives your life meaning? Figure it out and happiness will follow.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Walk Into The RealReal On Madison Avenue

Photo: The RealReal
The Upper East Side has a new upscale neighbor. In May renown online consignment trader, The RealReal, opened its 3rd brick-and-mortar store at 870 Madison Avenue (joining its sister stores located in Manhattan's Soho and Los Angeles, CA).

Photo: Fashion United
And like the others, the new Upper East Side shop will buy and sell luxury goods. On the street level customers can view, touch and purchase an assortment of carefully curated designer bags, fine jewelry, watches and art from Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuittron, Stella McCartney and others. The 2nd floor has a suite of offices to appraise high end belongings that collectors and Upper East Siders no longer want. Sellers (i.e. consignors) can either drop off their articles, or schedule free valuations from The RealReal's team of in-house experts. 

Likewise, buyers (i.e. customers) can drop in to browse, or book exclusive services from personal styling to viewing top-market goods such as Birkin bags or Rolex watches.

Consider this a bonus listing to last Thursday's blog on Manhattan's 5 top Luxury Resale Shops. It's within walking distance of the others, and I didn't include it because, The RealReal on Madison Avenue was meant to be only a popup shop, but an upstairs appraiser told me on Friday, the Madison Avenue location is now permanent.

Photo of 2nd floor appraisers' suites: Footwear News
As a general rule, I don't recommend re-selling stuff because you usually get less than what you paid for it, however, if you have pricey things you rarely use, you can still recoup a descent amount of money for what is now sitting around collecting dust. Perhaps you bought the wrong thing; you can recover some greenbacks for merchandise that's perfect for someone else. Declutter and use your sale money more wisely. 

For a myriad of reasons, resale is the new retail. But now you can logoff your computer and walk into the shop on Madison Avenue to buy or sell top-tier and unique goods in excellent condition, going from one owner to another, often at a good price.

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Thursday, June 6, 2019

5 Manhattan Luxury Resale Shops To Visit

A Second Chance Designer Boutique photo: Darlene G.
To be transparent I don't own any high end designer bags, shoes or scarves. Looking is tons of fun, but forking over a shocking amount of cash for one of the coveted items, not so much. However, I learn much from browsing.
Many owners of Hermes and Chanel bags resell them to consignment shops, making  these well-stocked and expertly coutured 2nd hand stores the best place to go if you are in the market to buy luxury goods. Don't expect to get them cheap, but you will find a previously loved bag, shoes or scarf in mint condition for thousands of dollars less.
At Hermes, you can't touch the bags. They are behind glass cases. Worst yet, you can't buy the bags. The merchant makes them so exclusive, you must beg and sweet talk a sales associate to get on a long, long waiting list. They tell you they don't know when a bag will become available. When I'm in the store I hear grown ass women groveling. Why ladies, do you accept shoddy treatment to get a boutique to sell you one of their insanely overpriced bags? Go elsewhere ... to places where staff treats you with the respect you deserve!

Today I'm featuring --

5 of Manhattan's Best High End Consignment Shops:

1) A Second Chance Designer Resale Boutique (above) - 1111 Lexington Avenue at East 67th Street - This was such fun to visit. It's a gorgeous 2-story shop of equally beautiful dresses, coats, jackets and bags from top designers including Chanel, Hermes Gucci and Louis Vuittron. Forever changing inventory to boot. The staff is welcoming and most helpful. You can also be added to their email list to be the first to hear of new arrivals.
La Boutique Resale photo: the merchant
2) La Boutique Resale - 1065 Madison Avenue between 80th and 81 Streets on the 2nd floor - It's a move up the street to a new location bringing their usual upscale designer suspects: Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Gucci and more. Fabulous bags, shoes and clothes that are well priced. Even a few bargains to be had and a lovely staff to help you if needed. Here too, sign up for email to announce new arrivals.
Michael's photo: the retailer
3) Michael's1125 Madison Avenue at 84th Street - 60+ years in business. Along with pre-owned top designer and one-of-a kind clothing, bags and shoes, Michael's sells fur, fine and fashion jewelry, belts and sunglasses, all exclusive brands and in like-new condition.
Roundabout Photo:
4) Roundabout New & Resale Couture - 2 locations: 1100 Madison Avenue, near E 83rd Street and 31 East 72nd Street, near Madison Avenue Sells couture goods directly from the design houses at up to 70% off, as well as, resales from previous owners of the most coveted luxury items in the world. 
Designer Revival photo: the owner
5) Designer Revival - 324 East 81th StreetSpecializes in high-end and vintage apparel, bags and shoes, the consignment shop is nestled on East 81th street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues and has film stars, models and socialites as its clientele. Styling services are offered too.

Nowadays resale is the new retail. So fashionistas and visitors to New York City, put stops to all 5 consignment shops on your itinerary as they are within walking distance of one another. Browsing is fabulous fun, and you may find a luxury item at an unbeatable (yet still expensive!) price that would otherwise be out-of-the-question to buy.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Case For Cheaper Casual Smart Dresses

Old Navy: Sleeveless Jersey Swing Dress

Perhaps the last time I bought higher priced dresses was 4 years ago. But guess what? They mostly hang out in my closet. One of them I've only worn once! A few, not at all!! And ... have you noticed? Few people fuss much anymore. Plus fast fashion gives us many options to look polished while spending less.

Old Navy
I admit to wearing dresses from H&M and Old Navy even to fancy events such as the New York City Ballet and nice restaurants. I dress them up with shoes and accessories; and I dare say, no one is the wiser! While I appreciate the fine fabrics and craftsmanship of high fashion, sometimes I have no desire to worry about soiling an expensive dress on a night out schlepping around on subways, or sitting on park benches. Most of us in Manhattan don't have cars to step in and out of while wearing our designer attire; and I'd much rather enjoy my outing with abandon than stressing over my dress all evening. At Lincoln Center under the lights, I'm unafraid to sit outside in my inexpensive dress to enjoy a summer breeze and people watch!

Retailers such as Uniqlo and Old Navy have spoiled me with their stylish collections of machine wash and dry dresses. Sans dry cleaning bills and maintenance, the extra time and money are mine to spend elsewhere. Or better yet, save!

For all these reasons I often grab my bargain dresses and leave the more affluent numbers at home, which is starting to fuel my buying practises. Perhaps I can forgo the cha-ching, cha-ching dresses? Looking nice on less suits me!

See: The Uniqlo printed sleeveless dress to the right can be dressed up with heels (or ballet flats) and a matching jacket, don't you agree?

How about you? Do you mostly dress fancy or casual smart on nights out on the town? Do you spend a little or a lot on clothing?

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