Entries Tagged as 'Pretty'

Humblebrag Cranberry Upside Down Cake

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24.1.14

humblebrag cranberry upside down cake // sweetsonian

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.

humblebrag cranberry upside down cake // sweetsonian

humblebrag cranberry upside down cake // sweetsonian

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.

humblebrag cranberry upside down cake // sweetsonian

humblebrag cranberry upside down cake // sweetsonian

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.

humblebrag cranberry upside down cake // sweetsonian

humblebrag cranberry upside down cake // sweetsonian

Cranberry Upside Down Cake, from the White House Pastry Kitchen

Ingredients:

Caramelized cranberry topping:

  • 1/4 cup butter (half of a stick)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1-2 cups fresh cranberries

Cake:

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Cooking tools: Cast iron skillet or cake pan (use parchment paper if using a cake pan), three mixing bowls, silicone spatula.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  3. 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.
  4. In one mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  5. 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.
  6. Gradually, mix in the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk.
  7. 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.
  8. Once completely incorporated, pour the cake batter into your cast iron skillet, covering the cranberries.
  9. 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.

Fall Favorites

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17.9.13

With the weather cooling down, I’m getting the urge to snuggle into one of the big wool sweaters I purchased in Bergen. Nothing beats sweater and boot weather. So cuddle up, hunker down, pour a glass of wine, and check out some of my favorite fall recipes.

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bacon fat gingersnaps // grown-up ramen // roasted beets, goat cheese & pistachio
roasted crusted squash // tomato basil soup // pumpkin swirl coffee cake
apple, cheddar & caramelized onion tart // almond honey granola // fig and brown sugar ice cream

 

Cardamom Pound Cake

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28.8.13

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Cardamom is a spice that you don’t come across too much in American cooking. I never really knew what it was until I was 19, wide-eyed and living in Tanzania for the summer — it was the main ingredient in a selection of teas and desserts, occasionally, in one of the rice dishes we had. Thinking back, there are a lot of things I wish I could change about that trip, but mostly myself: how I viewed life, how I acted back then. I’m sure we all have those moments (days, weeks, months).

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Just the taste of cardamom reminds me of how much we can change in just seven years. Back then, I was on a mission to prove my dedication to international development, and to prove to my parents that I didn’t need to listen to every piece of advice they scolded my way.

I deserved the scolding. I was an asshole back then (oh man, I hope-hope-hope I’m not nearly as much of an asshole now).

But no matter how broke I was because of that trip, I wouldn’t take it back for the world.

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I lived with a handful of other volunteer teachers in a house near Bahari Beach, just outside of Dar es Salaam. There were a few women who lived in the house that also cooked for us and taught us bits and pieces of Swahili — which I used to be alright at — but honestly, the memory that sticks with me more than anything is the scent and the taste of the cardamom-infused chai tea that greeted me every morning.

They mixed the tea from scratch, and boiled water in huge vats — water that was used throughout the day for cooking, laundering, and other methods of cleaning. The tea was strained directly into a giant, baby pink thermos, and had enough tea for everyone in the house to have at least a few cups of.

Breakfast usually included a few cups of tea, lesson planning, and toast with a glass of fresh passionfruit juice. Then, I’d hop onto tht dala dala, a bus that was so packed with people that no morning was complete without a stranger sitting on your lap or crouched between the other 20 riders on a 10-person bus. After teaching elementary school in the morning and high school in the afternoon, I usually took the bus back to Bahari beach, and walked to the beach itself — not far from Rold Dahl’s house, and a separate dial-up internet cafe.

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I had a typical Tanzanian school notebook that I used as a journal back then. It shouldn’t surprise you that I was a journal-writer, because, well, I write to you here as often as I can. I will say, it’s nice to have an actual reader for this type of stuff.

But after a drink or dinner at the beach cafe, I’d come back to the volunteer house and hang out with the girls and the other volunteers. I’d cross my fingers the entire walk back, hoping that there would be some tea left.

But then again, there was always beer, too.

Baking this cake filled my apartment with the scent of cardamom, which only made me drift back even further into these memories. I bought a massive box of Chai Bora before I left Tanzania — but I went through the tea ever so quickly, back in my UCSB days of daily, chilly morning Arabic classes.

They say scents spark the strongest memories, and when they do, years might have passed between the last time you even remembered the details your mind pairs with those scents.

It felt like years had passed since I smelled cardamom. The scent is comforting.

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Recipe after the jump.  (more…)

Fig and Bourbon Fizz

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22.8.13

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I know I probably say this all the time, but this was one of the most stressful weeks of my life.

Having just arrived home from Europe on Saturday, I went to work on Monday kind of excited — I knew after having been gone for a couple of weeks, my team would probably have some exciting projects in the works.

That part was very true. Lots of good stuff will be coming from the Energy Department digital team in the next couple of months.

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What I did not anticipate was a barrage of disasters from freelance clients. So, instead of having a leisurely week back from vacation with some nice projects for the day job, I spent sleepless nights putting together draft after endless draft of the same infographic 8 billion different ways. Today, I woke up early to start wireframing a project that’s been on my calendar for upwards of a month (I love people who plan ahead), but the disaster projects were over, so it was actually pretty therapeutic.

But yesterday, in the midst of the crisis and after two nights with minimal sleep and maximum stress, I attempted to write a blog post on my lunch break. That was an epic fail. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t write a sentence that wasn’t a form of frustration venting about nightmare projects. And right at that moment, I had an epiphany. It is 100 percent unacceptable to let myself get that stressed out over a freelance project. So I drew a line. I closed my computer, went back to the office, and worked on day job projects that I enjoy. And then, I went to dinner with Shaeda, who graciously dealt with my venting and reassured me that quitting all of freelancing was not the solution. Thanks, girl.

Anyway, two cocktails and an order of lobster guacamole later, I was at peace. But maybe that was just the booze.

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In the short interval between Europe and that disastrous work week, Nikki invited me to #figfest at a friend’s apartment. And fig fest it was — there was fig chutney and fig crostini… and fig and bourbon cocktails. What I would do to have one of these for happy hour tonight.

Recipe below. Missed y’all!

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Fig and Bourbon Fizz, from My Recipes

Makes enough for one drink — so multiply accordingly.

1 fresh, whole fig
6ish fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
Ice cubes
1/2 cup ginger ale
Mint sprig for garnish

Tools: cocktail shaker, something to muddle with

First, muddle the fig, mint leaves, and brown sugar in your cocktail shaker. You’ll want to break the fig down pretty well. Then, add bourbon and enough ice cubes to fill the shaker up. Cover with the lid and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds.

Strain into a glass or jar filled with ice cubes, and top with ginger ale to taste and a mint leaf. Drink immediately.

If you’re not following along on social media, check out Sweetsonian here!

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Bergen, Norway

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07.8.13

Bergen, Norway // Sweetsonian

It was raining cats and dogs for the majority of my time in Bergen, which I’m told, is the norm for the little city no matter what time of year it is. We had to forego the hiking trip to the top of the mountains because of the rain, but the copious amounts of coffee and carbs from the most fabulous host of them all, Åse, gave me a taste of what it would be like to live in Bergen.

It’s beautiful — that’s for sure. And the people I met were all very nice and seemed to enjoy their jobs and their lives in Bergen. If it weren’t for the constant rain, I’d probably move there.

Anyway, there aren’t many photos, because the rain made me nervous with the camera worth more than my life. But I couldn’t resist photos from the fjord tour and the fish market right after. Hope you all are having a wonderful week, wherever you are! Especially my friends in DC — missing you dearly.

Bergen, Norway // SweetsonianFish market in Bergen // Sweetsonian

I could have used an orange rain jumper like that while I was in Bergen.

Fish market in Bergen // Sweetsonian

Fish market in Bergen // Sweetsonian

Fish market in Bergen // Sweetsonian

Fish market in Bergen // Sweetsonian

Fjord tour from Bergen, Norway // Sweetsonian

Fjord tour from Bergen, Norway // Sweetsonian

Fjord tour from Bergen, Norway // Sweetsonian

Fjord tour from Bergen, Norway // Sweetsonian

Anyone who saw our boat chugging along was very excited to wave. Check out all of the waterfalls behind them! There are waterfalls everywhere in Norway. I’m assuming they’re from all of the melting snow.

 

Fjord tour from Bergen, Norway // Sweetsonian

Fjord tour from Bergen, Norway // SweetsonianTrain ride from Oslo to Bergen, Norway // Sweetsonian

Fjord tour from Bergen, Norway // Sweetsonian

Fjord tour from Bergen, Norway // Sweetsonian

Fjord tour from Bergen, Norway // Sweetsonian

Fjord tour from Bergen, Norway // Sweetsonian

Bergen, Norway // Sweetsonian

Bergen, Norway // SweetsonianAse's Kitchen in Bergen, Norway // Sweetsonian

Ase's Kitchen in Bergen, Norway // Sweetsonian

Train ride from Oslo to Bergen, Norway // Sweetsonian

Train ride from Oslo to Bergen, Norway // Sweetsonian

Train ride from Oslo to Bergen, Norway // Sweetsonian

 

One Day in Oslo

6

05.8.13

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Well, friends. I’m writing from a train that’s crossing the Norwegian countryside, where I’ve also learned SO much about European geography. I’m embarrassingly bad at geography everywhere (even in the states, as exhibited by a few terrible mistakes I’ve made on maps at work), but I had trouble mixing up where Norway and Sweden were on the map.

BUT — where I lack skills in geography, I make up for in anal retentiveness for following the blue dot on my iPhone whenever I am in a moving vehicle that I’m not in charge of driving. So, after the first two hours on this train, I realized that Sweden is actually east of Norway, and the only thing immediately west of Norway is the ocean. And… we were on a train headed west, because that’s where Bergen is.

I was telling everyone in the states that I was heading north.

I’m embarrassed enough to admit that to myself. I need to work on my geography. It didn’t help that I was so incredibly overbooked with work for the past three weeks that I had to stay 30 minutes later than planned in my office, missing two buses to the airport (but saving just enough time for a slice of pizza, strictly against the health regiment I’ve been desperately attempting to make routine).

You know you need a vacation when you literally run away from your office. And this is coming from someone who loves her work so much that sixty-hour work weeks are the norm. And I do not hate my life (most of the time).

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Anyway, this pretty Norwegian is showing me the best and brightest of Norway this week. After a red-eye flight to Brussels and wishing I spoke French, I landed in Oslo Friday evening. Silje brought me to her house, and we made a simple Norwegian summer dish called reker (pronounced reh-keer, simply Norwegian for “shrimp”). Recipe below, if you’d like to make your own version at home.

Since I was rather jet lagged, it felt like 3 PM for me when it was actually pretty late at night in Oslo. It didn’t help that the sun was still shining brightly at 10 PM. So we drank wine, caught up, and watched Scandal until we fell asleep. We woke up yesterday morning to a torrential thunderstorm, which we watched from an enclosed balcony. Then, we walked all over the city, had a long coffee and wine break at a waterfront restaurant, and then toured a new modern art museum. The creepy smile statue was by far the least weird thing in that museum (it was a graphic Cindy Sherman exhibit).

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We’ll be exploring Bergen for a few days — many of the people I met in Oslo said Bergen would easily be one of the most beautiful places in the world if I’m lucky enough to catch it on a sunny day.

So, we’ll see. In the meantime, enjoy the photos from my first day in Oslo, and the recipe below.

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Reker — a simple Scandinavian summer dish, serves 2

~1 lb. cooked shrimp
1 or 2 whole lemons, sliced into wedges
Fresh sprigs of dill
Generously thick slices of bread, toasted or untoasted
Selections of mayonnaise – we opted to be healthy, so we chose the light version
1 large bowl for discarding shrimp heads and shells

In Norway, there’s only really a month or two of warm weather, so eating outside is a special occasion. While peeling shrimp might not seem like your favorite thing to do, it was nice to sit outside with Silje and peel shrimp together.

Remove the shrimp heads and peel the shells, discarding the waste in a large bowl.

Spread a healthy serving of mayonnaise onto your slice of bread, and then arrange the shrimp on top. Garnish with a few sprigs of dill, and squeeze the juice of a couple wedges of lemon over the whole thing.

Eat with your hands like an open sandwich, or use a knife and fork if you prefer to stay clean. It can get messy.

I guess it really depends on how hungry you are.

Recently Pinning: Sweet Things

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18.7.13

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panna cotta rhubarb tart // strawberry pretzel tart // bourbon peaches & cream pops
puff pastry donuts // ritz cracker ice cream sammies // apple & dark chocolate wontons
trix krispies // caramel espresso lassi // brown butter waffle cake

With the summer heat in full-blast, I find myself craving easy, cold — fresh — desserts. Here are some of the recipes I’ve been pinning lately.

Hope you’re able to stay cool in this crazy heat wave.

And if you’re not following me on Pinterest yet, please do! 

Couch Seats

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22.5.13

So I had every intention of having recipes ready for you this week, but the Department of Energy just got a new secretary, and it’s been my job to run around DC with massive cameras, taking his photo. Let’s be honest, it’s awesome… and exhausting.

Tomorrow, I’ll be photographing another event at the White House (humblebrag!, soooooo my creativity is at an all-time low this week. And… let’s not get into details about the entire bottle of wine I drank on a downtown patio last night.

I did, however, stumble upon a great blog that compiles amazing videos of live music performances. I’m particularly smitten with the one below. Check out Couchseats when you have a spare two hours, because that’s how long I was sucked in for.

Happy Friday!

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17.5.13

I’m going to be honest — the day job has been wiping any and all remaining creativity from my plate, so I’ve been having trouble writing up posts. But, perhaps, I’m just not paying enough attention to the world around me.

This weekend, I’m looking forward to keeping my eyes open for a muse. After all, the weather is lovely. Here are a few of my favorite blogs for you to check out over the weekend! Definitely add them to your readers. And — have a glorious spring weekend.

Not Without Salt // Gorgeous photos, and writing that makes me want to write

notWithoutSalt

Oh Beautiful Beer // Craft beer branding. Love. This. Blog.

ohBeautifulBeer

The Kitchy Kitchen // Super adorable typography, and great recipes

kitchyKitchen

The House that Lars Built // My kind of design and styling

houseThatLarsBuilt

The Fresh Exchange // A favorite design blog of mine

freshExchange

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