Because America’s bests holiday is right around the corner.
I’m a little rusty on the icing skills, but these will have to do.
Star-Spangled Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing, recipe after the jump. (more…)
I told you about my office’s soup swap before, which we copied from Shaeda’s office on the Hill. But since soup swap started, our little creative office decided that soup is just not enough. We evolved with cheese swaps, cookie swaps, and with the recent heat waves, have moved on to popsicle swaps.
But seriously, DC was the hottest spot in the nation yesterday at noon. Hotter than Death Valley. DEATH. VALLEY.
Meanwhile, I took a lunch break trip to Marshall’s, and when my coworkers asked me how it was outside, my response was “not bad.” Who am I?
Anyway, our popsicle swaps happen every Thursday afternoon for a few weeks. Each week, three members of our team bring in enough of one kind of popsicle for everyone to try. You have one (or two) on popsicle swap day, and the rest are stored in the freezer for you to munch on later in the week.
It’s a nice little break for our little muggy office. I meant to make my own popsicles for the swap, but with catsitting this little dude, freelance and AirBnb, I’ve just been a little too busy. In honor of popsicle swap, I’ve pulled together a few of the recipes that I’m just dying to try for this summer.
In the market for some popsicle molds? These are my fave.
Margarita pops, because it’s 5 o’clock somewhere. Look at that pretty green hue!
Blood Orange Popsicles — my favorite citrus fruit, ever.
Honey yogurt berry pops – creamy and relatively healthy.
Greek yogurt fudgesicles — probably my favorite way to eat Greek yogurt. Ever.
While you’re at it, check out some of my other Sweetsonian cold treats:
And, if you’re not following along on social media, check out Sweetsonian here!
Summer has arrived, swiftly warning me of its brutality.
Today is my day off — I didn’t have much planned except for yoga this evening, but Kristen invited me to speak to her 6th and 7th graders about having a career in art. While one class seemed more interested in knowing if I knew “how to hack” or not (I told them that Google knew every single thing they did on the internet, so it was in their best interest to not hack), some students were genuinely interested in learning more about art and design.
I sure wish I had someone to talk to about careers in creative when I was younger! My newspaper advisor in high school (now a client!) was always supportive of my want to pursue design as a career, but being part of a family who only cared about finance made art school impossible.
It’s weird, isn’t it? I have friends working in almost every industry that exists. Some whose parents are creatives and encouraged creative careers — some of that backfires and sometimes it works. There seems to be a delicate balance. My parents strongly (forcefully) encouraged me to pursue finance and accounting. Sophomore year of college, I took an accounting class, and was doing pretty well. I hated every minute of every econ class I ever took, and I went into that accounting class with an A. But halfway through the final, I thought to myself, why the hell am I here? I hate accounting. I refuse to ever take another accounting class again.
So I walked out of the final exam. I got a C.
My dad wanted to kill me, but I knew I had made the right decision. It was the decision to choose my own courses, and to finally stop letting my parents dictate what I wanted. Back then, I wanted to be a CIA operative. I started taking Arabic classes, and I excelled. My parents rolled their eyes.
And don’t get me wrong, I loved my college experience, and my Arabic wasn’t bad — I had a couple of job offers for career paths close to being a CIA operative (but not quite the real thing). And I liked it, but there’s just no comparison to how much I love what I do now. I don’t think time was wasted, per se, but man, twenty-seven year old Sarah would loooove to travel back to 2004 and whisper some advice to high school Sarah. It wouldn’t be to specifically go to art school, but it would have been to stop letting my parents scare me into a career that I didn’t want.
Instead of the year and a half of economics classes for the business major, I could have been taking illustration and design. I can take those classes now, but sometimes, I wish I had a better base.
Of course, the grass is always greener. Who knows, if I went to art school when I was an undergrad, the recession could have killed any marketing budgets that could have funded a budding career — especially in Los Angeles.
It’s one of the many reasons why I love talking to kids about my job. I tell them about how I always loved art and creativity, and that I was somehow able to make it my full-time job, and that these days, it’s much easier to find work in creative than it was ten years ago. And half of the interesting stuff lies in the fact that I didn’t go to art school. I technically didn’t have to go to school at all. But it shows that you don’t need a degree in whatever the rest of your life will be spent doing.
And when the kids ask me how many hours I spend working, it’s always shocking to add it up and tell them sometimes up to 70 hours a week. I can see their eyes bug out, but I always supplement it with telling them: You know, if you’re lucky enough to really love your work, it won’t always feel like work. Which is true. Now, if I could just turn writing this blog and making yummy treats my full-time job. That would be a treat, wouldn’t it?
Hazelnut Lemon Cake with Roasted Blueberries, adapted from Diana Rossen Worthington
3/4 cup hazelnuts, finely ground
3/4 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons Greek yogurt
Zest of half a lemon
1 pint fresh blueberries, cleaned and picked over
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Mint sprigs, for garnish
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
Combine the flour, walnut meal, salt, and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Stir with a fork, and set aside.
In an electric mixer, cream the butter and the granulated sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then the sour cream and lemon zest. Slowly add the dry ingredients (I have this thing to keep my KitchenAid mixer from spraying flour all over the counter) and mix until just blended.
Pour the batter into your loaf pan, and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean. Let cool completely.
Raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.
Pour the blueberries into a baking dish or cast iron skillet. Sprinkle with brown sugar and butter, and stir to combine. Roast them in the oven until the blueberries are about to burst — about 10 minutes.
Serve each slice of cake with a spoonful of roasted blueberries, and garnish with mint (optional) if you like.
Swamped! Too much work. Not enough ice cream.
Hope you all enjoy the mild summer weather we’re having here in DC. And… make this ice cream. You won’t regret it.
Matcha Green Tea & Mint Ice Cream
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
5 egg yolks
2 tablespoons ground matcha powder
Combine the milk, cream, and matcha powder in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil for just a moment, and reduce the heat to low. Add the mint leaves into the saucepan, stir and muddle with a large spoon, and turn off the heat entirely. Let the cream steep with the mint leaves for 30 minutes to one hour — the longer it steeps, the stronger the mint flavor.
In a separate bowl, combine the egg yolks and the sugar, mixing with a fork. When you’re done steeping the cream, run the mixture through a sieve to remove the mint leaves. Then, turn the heat back on, and bring the mixture to a boil once more, again, immediately removing the heat once the boil starts.
Using a smaller measuring cup (I used a 1/4 cup), slowly pour the hot mixture into the bowl with one hand as your vigorously stir the mixture with a fork in your other hand. Gradually add one or two cups until the custard is fully incorporated, and then combine the custard with the remaining cream in the saucepan. Run the mixture through a sieve one more time to filter out any egg scrambles. Let chill completely in the fridge, and run the mixture through an ice cream maker according to its manufacturer’s instructions.
The person who really got me into cooking is a friend of my father. I really had no idea what I was doing in the kitchen until the summer I spent working in his kitchen for extra cash for my trip to Tanzania — he was more generous than the data entry job at the bank was back in 2005, and he promised that I would leave Los Angeles that summer with the kitchen basics. And he was right.
By trade, he ran a construction business. When I asked him why he cooked so much if he ran a contracting business, he told me that his entire life, he loved two things: “building shit, and cooking.”
So his decisions were rather simple: he started his business and found clients by word of mouth (much in the same way I do now, with design), and in his spare time, he cooked. Cooking was his hobby, and where he invested almost all of his time and energy.
Over the years, he let me in on a little secret that he had kept for years — something he called the Twelve Man meal.
Back then, it was a pretty well-kept secret. Basically, he and a few chef friends would host monthly dinners, all at different homes or locations. They coordinated and planned and cooked and paired, and each month, they invited a select few of their friends to share the meal. It was their boys club. And when word started to get around, the invitations became a coveted affair.
What I didn’t realize was that this was a supper club. I wanted this for myself. Still do.
It’s always been a dream of mine to move into a pretty Brooklyn apartment with a nice roof deck — a summer supper club with a few close friends and acquaintances twice removed is somewhere on my to-do list. Lately, friends have been getting me to visualize a pretty one-bedroom on the Upper East Side (primarily so we force each other to go to soul cycle on the reg), so it’s all up in the air.
Earlier this year, I said my goals for 2014 were to get hella fit, fall in love, and move to New York. And I’d be happy if two of those three things happened. Well, two of the three are well on their way.
I’ve been interviewing as aggressively as last year’s dating calendar (honestly, who goes on three dates a week for a year straight?! NEVER. AGAIN.) and hopefully, something will pan out. I wasn’t expecting such a good response from job apps, because, you know, I’m still in shock that I’m actually a designer and an art director and that people want to pay me to do these things even though I studied Arabic for years and not design. But I’ve been coming to terms with reality, and I’m starting to get a hold of what I want and what I can offer.
In fact, in an interview yesterday morning, I was asked: why New York, why now?
I’ve gotten that question before, but never phrased with the “why now” part. So I paused, and just spoke from the heart. And the words that I exhaled from my mouth said something to the effect of — you know, I’ve always loved — loved — New York, and I finally feel like I’m at a place in my career where I’ve learned all that I can at my current job, and that I feel like I really have something more to offer to my next one.
And it’s true: I will always love where I work now. It’s the first job I ever enjoyed, let alone been excited to go to every. single. day. Okay, maybe not every single day, but still a vast majority of the days. Even though I complain about wanting to do my job from bed (like every five minutes).
Anyway, the real talk is that I feel like my life is on the cusp of something big. I wrote something similar two years ago, when I was also aggressively interviewing for jobs and/or crying after I got my financial aid package from grad school — oh man, remember when I thought I was going to grad school?!
The past couple of years have been such an adventure. Too often, we find ourselves taking this adventure for granted. We get so caught up in the travel and every day stress of our jobs and the details that are, more often than not, absolutely meaningless. People advise us to do what you love or do what pays the bills or ask him out or make them earn it. The truth is that at some point, advice can only take you so far. You gotta do what’s right for you. I, somehow, by the grace of God or luck or science or whatever makes the world go ’round, found myself working for people that want the best for you – to find your dream job and create something amazing that will blow everyone’s minds, which we get to do pretty often as-is.
I guess the point of all of this is that I’m grateful. For the people who taught me how to cook, how to take photos, how to design, how to solve problems, and how to speak from the heart. And, as Emily says on the reg — “You do you, girlfriend. You do you.” Because we all gotta get somewhere, and the people that matter are the ones that will love you no matter where you go or what you do for a living.
When I first started writing this post, I envisioned connecting this recipe to that guy up there that taught me how to cook — because he keeps his own bees and sends me home-grown honey and lip balms and body butters every now and then. I digress. But anyway, this would be great if you had some home-grown honey. The store-bought works just as well, but you’ll have less to humblebrag about :)
Happy Friday. Lurve you guys. Recipe after the jump.
Since I started working for the Energy Department, I’ve been pretty lucky in the sense that I’ve gotten to take several trips to the White House grounds, either for work or for tours. And, as much fun as photographing events in the EEOB next door is, the tours are particularly exciting — and honestly, visiting the White House grounds never gets old.
Between fall and winter, I was able to score tickets to two White House East Wing tours, thanks to awesome coworkers (who are the well-connected ones that actually get invited to these things). The most recent adventure was right before I left for California for Christmas — most of my office took a trip together for the Holiday tour, which is extra special because you’re allowed to take photos. They had the GWU a capella group singing Christmas carols and Michael Jackson tunes, and Christmas trees galore. It. Was. Gorgeous.
I’m heading back in a few weeks for bowling in the basement — something my Norwegian friends could not believe was a “thing.”
Next time, I’m bringing my camera.
Anyway, this recipe comes from the adorable little book that the White House gave out to everyone that attended the Holiday Tour — it’s filled with illustrated pictures of Bo and Sunny running around the White House. And, at the end, this recipe for cranberry upside down cake is featured, straight from the White House Pastry Kitchen. Honestly, make this cake while you can still find cranberries in at the grocery store. If you’ve missed the season, then sub in any sort of fruit — peaches, apples, cherries, you name it. It’ll all taste pretty amazing.
Someone tweet these photos to Michelle. I’d die of happiness if she saw it.
Cranberry Upside Down Cake, from the White House Pastry Kitchen
Caramelized cranberry topping:
There’s a somberness that comes with the end of summer and beginning of fall. The air is drier, there sun is lower, and the sky feels a little bluer. Maybe it’s because the wind is a little colder.
But with every changing season, I reflect on the past few months — for me, summer was exhilarating. I was jet setting between California and New York and spotted through Europe (can I go back please?). The day job and the freelance clients have all been pretty amazing lately, so it’s safe to say I’m in a good spot.
I spent a couple of hours on Kristen’s floor with Winston last night, drinking wine and catching up after a busy day of work and biking all over DC. I’ve actually had a couple of anxiety filled days, mostly coping with the realization that no one is happy all of the time. It’s painful, to see people you care about struggling. Whether you’ve been in their shoes or not, it hurts. We meowed with Winston, told stories about how we’re too old to be drinking as much as we do, and chatted about the ups and downs, the balancing act of good times and bad times in our circles of friends.
A few of our close friends are going through some rough transitions in life, and I’ve been trying to figure out how the best ways to help them. Most of the time, I just want to rescue the people I love, take a few days off work and sit them down in my living room while I blast music and bake up a storm. Or fly to wherever they are and do the same in their own kitchen. It’s the company that matters; the location is usually meaningless.
Long story short, if you’re reading this, you know who you are. I love you, and this pumpkin tea cake is for you.
Pumpkin Tea Cake, derived from the Tartine Cookbook
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup + 2 tbsp pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Line one 9-by-5-inch loaf pan (or three mini loaf pans) with parchment paper, and brush with oil or rub with butter.
In a mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves together. Set aside.
In your stand mixer, beat together the pumpkin puree, oil, sugar, and salt on medium speed, until well-mixed. Add each egg, one at a time, fully incorporating before adding the next. Slowly add the dry ingredients with the mixer on low speed, beating until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, and then beat on medium speed for 10 seconds to make a smooth batter.
Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan (or pans) and smooth the surface with your spatula. Bake until the centers are set and a toothpick comes out clean — the time will depend on your oven, but it should take about 1 hour.
Serve the cake at room temperature. It keeps well if wrapped in saran wrap, but it won’t last long.
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