1. Bubble baths are the best. Sometimes skipping the gym and opting for a glass of wine in a hot bath need to happen.
2. Snow falling after a late night at work — I was in the office for the State of the Union speech, and as I was hailing a cab, the presidential motorcade passed me on Independence Avenue. You know it’s the President when there’s an ambulance. And, after the motorcade passed, it was silent. You could hear the snow falling gently on the ground.
3. I finally framed and hung my foodie souvenir from my summer trip to Oslo — the paper take away bag from the cutest little pie shop called Hello Good Pie. They have a fabulous Instagram, in case you were wondering :)
4. I can drink tequila. And I didn’t get the spins! Fabulous dinner with two of my favorite people in New York City — Agave in the West Village is a place I’ll be visiting again and again.
5. Last week, my apartment building voted to take a financial settlement. We drank champagne on the floors of our hallway with two of our neighbors. It’s going to be a great summer.
6. My work computer decided to switch to Japanese one day. I learned that my favorite videographer ever knows Japanese. She promptly fixed it.
The last time I was in New York, it was frigid. We spent our Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn — I spent more money than necessary on handmade jewelry at Artists and Fleas (quite possibly my favorite place on the earth), and after wandering to the waterfront for pretty photos of Manhattan and strolling around Brooklyn in the Nordic-temperature shade, we stumbled into a little cash-only joint named Juniper.
It smelled delicious, and had a space heater at the door. And right as we walked in, we eyed a giant bowl of mac and cheese that had just arrived at a nearby table. We salivated. So, we stayed.
For being a restaurant with maaaaybe 6 tables, it took an unnecessarily long time to get our diet cokes and later, the check, but the comfort food was pretty amazing. I had the chicken pot pie, which I instagrammed and later dreamed of. After a few bites, I looked up at Shaeda and said, “We have to make this.”
It seemed to be no coincidence that both Bon Appetit and Martha Stewart Living featured chicken pot pie recipes. It’s like their editors knew that we’d all be facing a brutal winter this year. In the past two months, I’ve seen more snow than I’ve seen in the three years it’s been since Snowmageddon. It’s lovely, but I do find myself checking flight prices to Miami every other day.
So today, I was determined to make this. I found the adorable mini saucepans at the TJ Maxx downtown (score! Similar ones here) and came up with a simple, but comforting recipe for chicken pot pie. Most recipes called for potatoes, and some for cream, but y’all know about my attempts to stay on track with some form of a healthy diet. I was surprised to realize that chicken pot pies don’t actually need much, other than chicken, vegetables, butter and puff pastry. It’s high in flavor, low in guilt. I’m okay with that.
Chicken Pot Pie
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small shallot, finely diced
1/2 of a medium onion, diced
1/3 cup carrots, sliced into coins
1 stalk celery, diced
About 3/4 lbs. chicken, diced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1.5 cups chicken broth
2 or 3 cups fresh spinach
Salt & pepper to taste
Frozen puff pastry, thawed
Fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped for garnish
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a skillet, melt the butter and saute the shallot and onions. Once the onions start to brown (maybe after 3-4 minutes), add the carrots, celery, and chicken. When the chicken starts to brown and burnt bits start to collect at the bottom of the pan, stir in the 2 tablespoons of flour.
Add the chicken broth, and a pinch or two each of salt and pepper. Also add the spinach and stir, letting the stew simmer and thicken.
Transfer your stew to two oven-safe bowls, dividing evenly. When I made this, I placed my puff pastry directly on top of the bowls. The puff pastry didn’t rise as high as it normally would, which I believe had something to do with the dough touching the stew directly — so on my next batch, I cooked the puff pastry on a baking sheet separately, and then placed the cooked puff pastry on the stew afterwards.
Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes, until the puff pastry has risen and turns a golden brown. Garnish with fresh parsley.
I’m getting so close to being able to do a yoga headstand without the wall. This guide (along with Emily, resident crazy yoga lady roommate) is helping me build the strength to get there. #abslikewhoa2014
It seems like everyone’s posting photos of tropical vacation destinations all over the internet. Maybe the 14 degree weather outside has something to do with it.
It’s been an exciting week — with State of the Union behind us, I feel like I have a ton of content coming up. And some fun infographics — sneak preview of the cute little alien I illustrated here!
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t wishing I were on a beach in Greece right now. Plus, we have a couple of months of winter left, so I’m trying so hard to not say that I wished it was spring. Two. Months. Left. After all, Snowmageddon happened halfway through February. I have a lot of frigid weather left.
All of this dreaming about vacations has me in financial panic mode. So naturally, I’m going into collections mode with freelance clients, which is something I’ve fallen behind with. And, if any of you know what I’m talking about… the longer you go without pestering people for money, the more awkward and shy you feel about starting up again.
So here goes.
I mean, I have a trip to Mexico planned and paid for this May — Presidents’ Day Weekend wedding! And I’m hoping to take an extended road trip along the coast of Spain this summer… so yeah, bring on the freelance work.
Remember the days before people named storms? The first crazy name for me was Snowmageddon, back in 2010 (best storm ever, as far as I was concerned). But these days, it seems like every storm on the East Coast needs a corny name of its own. It’s silly.
As a friend of mine says, “back home, we just call it ‘weather.’”
Anyway, with the Polar Vortex, part two, on its way, I thought I’d share something my office really enjoys: soup swap.
We stole the idea from Shaeda’s office, but we’ve done it twice so far, and it’s still a huge hit. Basically, everyone makes a giant batch of soup, divides them into individual containers, and brings them all to the office, where we keep them in the refrigerator. Some coworkers take the soup home to share with their families, but most of us just keep them at the office so we don’t have to carry lunch every day (plus, we’re usually here after hours, so soup swap takes care of dinner most nights, too).
Here’s a sample of the recipes my coworkers brought in. They were all delicious! Hope y’all have something to warm your heart and your stomach until this cold spell passes.
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:
1/4 cup butter (half of a stick)
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1-2 cups fresh cranberries
1.5 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup milk
Cooking tools: Cast iron skillet or cake pan (use parchment paper if using a cake pan), three mixing bowls, silicone spatula.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a cast iron skillet (mine is 9.5 inches wide), melt the 1/4 cup of butter over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and cranberries, making sure the cranberries are coated in the butter and sugar. After a minute or two, turn the heat off, and let them sit while you prepare the cake batter.
In one mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, and salt.
Using a stand mixer (or any electric mixer), combine the 1/2 cup butter with about half of the sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, mix in the orange juice, and then add the egg yolks, one by one.
Gradually, mix in the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk.
In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites with the remaining sugar, until they hold a firm peak. Then, gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter.
Once completely incorporated, pour the cake batter into your cast iron skillet, covering the cranberries.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, when a toothpick comes out clean. After baking, let the cake cool on a wire rack (or the grate of your stove) for an hour or two. When you’re ready to serve, run a knife along the edge of the cake, and flip onto a plate.
2013 was a long year. Not a particularly bad one, for me, but a long one.
Last January, my boss at the Energy Department asked me if 2013 was the year Sweetsonian would take off. I hadn’t thought about it until that moment, but I did decide right then. Yes, yes it would. 2013 would be the year Sweetsonian takes off.
So, I got to work. I’ve learned so much about blogging in the past year alone. I’m happy to be here, even though I’ve fallen off the boat in the past couple of months — I’ve told you all about my issues with exhaustion. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I worked hard to write regularly, not just for you, but for me. Because writing here helps me sort out my own priorities, and it helps me decide what’s worth talking about and what isn’t.
I feel like I’ve opened up way more than I ever have in the past year. Like that time I wrote a very heartfelt confession of the best and worst lovespell of my life (which happened to be my first post picked up by Refinery 29, naturally). I’ve written a lot about him. And my mother, or hints to the lack thereof.
I was talking to one of my friends about goals — I, for one, have always been a very goal-oriented woman. Her mother encourages visualizing. That is, taking a few minutes every day to close your eyes and visualize your goals — who you want to be in the future, where you want to live, what you’d like to be doing with your life. I fell in love with this concept, partially because I’m a desperate victim to even the slightest distraction. Distractions from the day job projects or the freelance ones. Distractions because the internet is a volatile place. Distractions from reality because I might have mild ADD. As a child of the internet, don’t we all?
Anyway, by taking a few minutes out of each day to clear your mind and just visualize the things that you want in life, you allow yourself to keep your goals in check. It’s a lot like yoga, which I’ve been practicing diligently for the past couple of months. Yoga is that one place where I actually can clear my mind of the noise. It’s a nice sanctuary at the beginning or end of a long day.
For the past couple of weeks, I let myself visualize when I feel myself getting frustrated or stressed. It’s nice to just take a deep breath, close my eyes, and picture a nice house in Brooklyn with a kitchen filled with light and a pretty office, with one desk for my computer and another for my typewriter. Doesn’t that sound nice? Just typing up that imagery brought a smile to my face. Because my three goals this year are to get hella fit, move to New York, and fall in love. Ambitious, but nice to visualize.
I’m thinking, realistically, that 2 out of 3 would be great. Expecting 3 of 3 might lead to disappointment (men of DC, I’m talking about you), but as Lauren told me in a text last night, 2 out of 3 is a pretty good goal for most things in life. I definitely agree.
For now, it’s a bit chilly in Washington. I have the day off, so I did a little bit of cooking — this stew is derived from a dear friend, and is a go-to dish when I have people over in the fall and winter. Serve it by itself, or with a generous helping of fried or broiled salmon, bacon crumbles and fresh parsley.
2 large leeks, rinsed thoroughly and chopped (white and light green parts only)
1 heaping handful jullienned sundried tomatoes
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cups white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
Several sprigs of fresh thyme
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
Rinse and drain your cannellini beans, and set aside.
In a cast iron Dutch oven (or any large pot), heat the bacon grease, and add in a drizzle of olive oil. Sautee the chopped leeks for a few minutes, until they soften and start to brown on the edges. Then, add in your sun-dried tomatoes, thyme, beans, and red pepper flakes.
Add in the chicken (or vegetable) broth, with a pinch of salt and maybe a few pinches of pepper. Stir, cover, and let simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, letting the beans soak in the flavors from the broth.
Then, stir in a cup of wine, and squeeze the juice from the lemon into the stew. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for another 10 minutes or so, and serve.