Katie Holmes

First Impressions Officer

Chocolate Paleo Cake for a REAL Snack O’Clock

I started this job a few months ago, and everyone kept talking about this blog, ”Snack O’Clock.” I thought to myself, “I LOVE SNACKS, this is perfect!” I was a little disappointed so see so few posts on actual snacks. I mean, it is called Snack O’Clock. Then JP approached me to write a blog post about one of my cakes. And I thought, “this is awesome”!

I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging, technology, baking and how they all fit together in my new role as First Impressions Officer here at Matrix Group. As a proud Millennial, I’ve blogged for most of my opinionated adolescence, (Shout out to all the Live Journal users out there!) so I’ll keep the angst to a minimum here. I have also become an avid baker/pastry chef in the past few years. I love trying new things in the kitchen, and, above all else, I am a huge fan of eating. Not in a gluttonous, frenzied way, but in a savoring experience of flavors, textures, and ideas. Food is nourishment for the body, and for the mind.

Last week, we put together an office party to celebrate those who had birthdays in January. I was tasked with the party planning. I asked those with birthdays what kind of cakes they wanted as part of the celebration. There was a request for a banal red velvet cake, then a more adventurous chocolate and mint flavored grasshopper cake. And then something amazing happened. Elaine asked for a dessert either gluten-free or under the Paleo diet umbrella.

“WHAT? No gluten? No flour? No sugar? No dairy??? How does that even work?! I must find out!”

I accepted the challenge, dusted off my trusty Google search engine, and went to task. I learned that the followers of the Paleo lifestyle diet focus more on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean proteins. More of what our Paleolithic ancestors would have eaten. The focus is on nutrient rich eating, real food, and natural foods.

Now the real question, “How does one make a cake without dairy, wheat, or cane sugar?”

I found the answer in the most feminine and beautiful niche blogs. The Urban Poser is a delightful baking blog with amazing recipes which all fall under this Paleo umbrella. Her “Cherry Chocolate Naked Cake” was so striking that I absolutely needed to make it. Immediately.

After gathering the ingredients from three different stores, I was ready to commit to this nontraditional lifestyle cake. (Have you tried Ghee (clarified butter)? No? Well you should. Put it in everything. You can thank me later.)

The basics of this cake were some kind of fat (palm shortening or ghee), the coconut flour, a binding natural starch flour like arrowroot or potato, cocoa powder, coconut milk, eggs, and honey. I was SO SURPRISED to find that when the cakes were finished baking they looked, smelled, and tasted like cake! Not some weird crumbly mess I’ve made of vegan variety, but honest to goodness cake. This was like having a decadent piece of chocolate cake without that saccharine punch in the teeth. I did, however, have issue with the recommended whipped coconut cream frosting. Once I added the recommended amount of cocoa powder, the cream seized up making it look a little less than appealing. The next instructions detailed how to cover the cake in halved ripe cherries saving the cake from some kind of aesthetic failure.

This cake was what we call in my house slammin’ jammin’. This cake was a hit in the office, and a hit with the resident Paleo follower. It’s easy to reject new things because they take you out of your comfort zone. It’s even easier to buy cakes ready made from the supermarket. However, it is most important to live fully. Or with a full belly.

To see the full recipe and fall in love, visit the Urban Poser’s blog. You really need to try this cake for yourself!

What new challenges have you taken on in 2017? 

Sarah Mills

Senior Designer

Photographing our staff: some lessons learned

photos

To preface: I am not a professional photographer. I recommend hiring one, especially if the images will be used on your website: beautiful imagery makes a world of difference towards your brand. However, there are occasions when it is not feasible to do that—budget, time, frequency of need.

Here at Matrix, we need to update our photos every time someone joins the team and we needed a way to get consistent looking images for use on our site and client extranet. We want people to know who we are! Also, the world needs to know how good-looking the Matrix team actually is.

I set about taking our staff photos—regular shots and a few fun ones to show some personality. Here is what I have learned about shooting people on a white backdrop so far:

1. Photography equipment is not as expensive as I thought it would be. We were able to purchase a backdrop and lighting equipment from Amazon that fit our needs. PS. Lenses are ridiculously expensive.

2. Light the subject and background separately. Recheck it for each person—people are different heights and values, which will change the results.

3. Have people wear dark clothing. They need to stand out from the background.

4. Google your camera model’s settings. There are so many things that will help your results—definitely Google how to set your custom white balance. Experiment with the aperture settings and ISO speed.

6. Take a TON of pictures. People blink. A lot. Setting the camera to multi-shot (3 frames per second) mode helps, too.

What photography tips have you discovered?

Tanya Kennedy Luminati

Director of MatrixMaxx

I’ve got MY black & white composition book with me … do YOU?

Last week, project manager Kevin Tomko talked about how he loves taking notes directly into his laptop. I, on the other hand, think that paper is not yet out of the picture.

I stumbled on this great article about low-tech strategies to keep yourself organized Composition notebookand I loved that it put a paper notebook at the top of the list. That is something that everyone at Matrix has been asked to do as long as I’ve worked here:

  • Always have a notebook and pen with you.
  • Be ready to participate in an impromptu meeting or discuss an issue or take down a ‘to do’ item at any point in the work day at any place in the office.
Everyone has their own favorite notebooks: Some like them small. Others large. Some like spirals.
Some, like me, just love the sturdiness of the Composition Notebook (now available in fashion colors in addition to the more traditional black & white).  I actually have 5 years worth of notebooks on my shelves, and occasionally I find myself leafing back through them, looking for scribbles from a particular meeting or particular discussion that seemed like it wasn’t going to amount to anything but then years later came back.
I think that when it comes down to simple time management, it is important to not get too hung up on the whiz-bang of technology. Yes, a shared online calendar has its advantages. But sometimes it is also nice to just flip open a paper organizer and be able to scribble little notes all up and down the margin, add unrelated thoughts, or just jot down a quick thought or phone number.
What are the ‘oldies but goodies’ habits in your daily routine?
Sarah Jedrey

Marketing Coordinator / Video Editor

Things we love: Animal Planet’s Live Kitten Cam

kitten

Kitten, via http://www.sxc.hu/

Sometimes, when you need a brain break, you need a dose of cute.  Science backs us up on this.

We love the Washington Animal Rescue League, and we love small, fuzzy things, so the Too Cute Live Kitten Cam from Animal Planet just makes us happy!

http://animal.discovery.com/tv/too-cute-kittens/kitten-cam/

What website is your go-to when you need a healthy dose of cute?