Snickerdoodle Remix

snickerdoodles // sweetsonian

snickerdoodles // sweetsonian

When I think of snickerdoodles, I think back to the DLG.

The DLG — De la Guerra Dining Commons, was one of the main dining halls at UCSB. It’s a gorgeous building, really — super modern, mostly-white design, with giant glass windows that we used to watch the sunset from over books or family dinners with friends.

The DLG. That place had fantastic snickerdoodles. They didn’t have the healthiest of foods all the time, and there were rumors of them spraying sugar water on the salad bar (because of the beach school’s eating disorder problem), but we used to smuggle juices and fruits and snickerdoodles out as often as we could.

Oh, the days of freshman year, when going to a cafeteria was the norm. It was weird, and wonderful — and felt like going out to eat with your friends, every single day.

I’d never want to go back to those days after having lived on my own (and thankfully, with a kitchen), but it’s nice to reminisce.

These cookies are an ode to the DLG, and a rehash of one of my earlier recipes on Sweetsonian. The blog birthday is this week, so I’ve been trying to rephotograph some of my older recipes — from before the DSLR!

snickerdoodles // sweetsonian

The last two weeks have been a little weird, honestly. Fun, exhilarating, and weird. Between the finnicky freelance world, too many mediocre dates, and a couple of job offers (that I did not go hunting for), November really has thrown me for a whirl with decision making. I know I always said that I’d never move back to California, but an opportunity in San Francisco presented itself so freely and perfectly for where I envisioned my career going, that it only took an hour of thinking over for me to actually picture myself not hating my life there.

You know how I feel about the East Coast. I would never want to leave it, but I guess, like everyone, if you’re given the perfect job, you’d probably take it.

Anyway, that one came and went. That firm brought in a freelance director for the next year or so — so for now, I’ll keep designing for them. But who knows? I guess I would go anywhere for the perfect job and the opportunity to build a team of fantastic designers.

I had a fantastic trip to New York, experiencing the city from a different lens. Up until that point, I had only experienced the hipster city — raging parties and bars in the village, meeting handsome strangers left and right, and snuggling up in a friend’s bed or couch. This time was a totally different feel, visiting the friends who married last August, and now live on the Upper East Side. It was so lovely. And I mailed them a box of these cookies as a thank you.

Side note, a discovery from my colleagues: dipping these snickerdoodles in coffee will change your life.

Anyway, apologies for the absence! With travel and freelance and impromptu job prospects and craziness at work (and Tesla vs. Edison week), it’s been hard to find room for creativity. If it makes up for the lack of posting, I really do miss being on here! Xo.

snickerdoodles // sweetsonian

Snickerdoodles

Ingredients

  • WHAT YOU NEED
  • 1cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 medium-sized eggs
  • 2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup tablespoons coarse, white sugar
  • 1/4 cup teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon cardamom

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In your stand mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until light and fluffy (4-6 minutes). Add each egg, letting one fully incorporate into the batter before adding the next. Then add in the vanilla extract.
  3. In a separate, large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients — flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda — whisking together to mix evenly.
  4. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the batter, and mix thoroughly.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the coarse sugar, cinnamon and cardamom. Use a scoop or a spoon to roll approximately one-inch sized cookies, and then roll in the sugar-cinnamon mixture.
  6. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. I like my snickerdoodles a little chewy.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 10 minute(s)

Pumpkin Tea Cake

pumpkin tea cake // sweetsonian

pumpkin tea cake // sweetsonian

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 // sweetsonian

pumpkin tea cake // sweetsonian

pumpkin tea cake // sweetsonian

pumpkin tea cake // sweetsonian

pumpkin tea cake // sweetsonian

pumpkin tea cake // sweetsonian

pumpkin tea cake // sweetsonian

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.

Roasted Vanilla Pears with Espresso Marscapone Cream

Vanilla Roasted Pears with Espresso Mascarpone Cream

Vanilla Roasted Pears with Espresso Mascarpone Cream

Five months. It’s been five months since I moved into my new apartment.

It hardly feels that way.

Only in the past few weeks have I actually begun feeling settled — I guess it’s a result of a summer filled with travels and work and temporary roommates. I’ve learned more about myself as a roommate this summer than I have in the past eight years of living with people who aren’t my parents.

I know I have my quirks. I roller coaster between kitchen nazi and someone who’s so all over the place that I can’t tell left from right. I struggle between pleasing people and being selfish. We all do.

But after a summer of travel in basically every direction that exists, filled with weddings and sailing and rope swings — it’s a rainy Saturday afternoon, and I finally feel settled enough to sit down and write.

Vanilla Roasted Pears with Espresso Mascarpone Cream

Vanilla Roasted Pears with Espresso Mascarpone Cream

Vanilla Roasted Pears with Espresso Mascarpone Cream

I just bought a new Apple display screen for my home office, but there’s something comforting about writing my posts from the laptop in bed. It’s how I’ve written almost every sentence for the past eight years. Four of which, as of last Tuesday, have been written in DC. I considered leaving the apartment and being productive when I woke up this morning, but after seeing the forecast and by the time I got to the bottom of my French press, I gave up. I snuggled into bed with a sweater from Bergen and a few episodes of Breaking Bad.

For today, that’s all I need. The weather is cooling down, which makes me just absolutely smitten with this city. And, if you’re on the hunt for a good fall transition food, these pears make an impressive dessert (or breakfast, if you happen to share an apartment with me).

Vanilla Roasted Pears with Espresso Mascarpone Cream

Vanilla Roasted Pears with Espresso Mascarpone Cream

Vanilla Roasted Pears with Espresso Mascarpone Cream

Roasted Pears with Coffee Marscapone, Serves 3 or 6, depending on how much dessert you want

Roasted pears:
¼ cups light brown sugar
½ vanilla bean
3 Bosc pears, peeled, halved lengthwise and cored (or whatever you can get your hands on)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons butter
Bourbon or rum to drizzle before serving

Espresso marscapone cream:
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup marsacpone cheese
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Stir espresso powder and water in a large bowl until dissolved. Add cream, mascarpone, and sugar. Beat in a stand mixer until the cream is thick and smooth. Transfer into a jar or serving dish, and store in the freezer while you roast the pears (you can even make this a day or two ahead).

In a small bowl, combine your sugar and vanilla bean seeds — I store my vanilla beans in a jar filled with vodka (vanilla extract at home!) but this makes it extra easy to extract the beans. Just snip off the end of a bean and squeeze out the contents like it’s a stick of honey. Whisk with a fork.

Arrange your pears, core up, in a baking dish (a pie plate would fit them perfectly). Brush the pears with lemon juice, and put a cube of butter in each core. Sprinkle the pears with your sugar, and pour the water into the baking dish.

Serve each pear with a scoop of cream and a drizzle of bourbon or rum.

Fall Favorites

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.

fall faves-01

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

cardamom pound cake // sweetsonian

DSC_0879

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).

DSC_0836

DSC_0832

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.

DSC_0838

DSC_0867

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.

DSC_0880

DSC_0881

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.

DSC_0885

DSC_0886

DSC_0888

Recipe after the jump.  Continue reading “Cardamom Pound Cake”

Fig and Bourbon Fizz

cocktail1

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.

3

4

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.

5

28

6

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!

7

9

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!

facebook // twitter // instagram // pinterest }

Bourbon and White Chocolate S’mores Bars

smores1

I just want to start off by thanking all of you. Thank you so, so, so much for reading. In the past couple of months, I’ve received more emails and comments from you all as readers than I ever thought was possible for my little blog! I really can’t express how every single comment, every single email and every single Tweet has made me gush and blush. Words cannot express how much I love all of you right now. You make me want to write more and more.

That being said, I’m on a plane to Houston at the moment. My flight was delayed out of Washington for, like, 8 billion reasons, and I’m pretty sure my Houston-to-Los-Angeles flight took off an hour ago. I made a nice friend at the airport, and in typical airport grown-up fashion, we didn’t exchange names. We did, however, camp out on the floor in the middle of a packed terminal, chat about her two-year old son in Chicago, and commiserate about rude travelers. Thumbs up, assholes that block the gate exit when people are trying to deboard our plane. They’re almost as annoying as the tourists who try to get on a metro train before letting people out… during rush hour. I mean, come on… train etiquette is just like elevator etiquette.

But I digress.

SmoresBars1

Like always, travel gives me time to reflect on what I’m doing with my life.

Lately, I’ve discovered an involuntary urge to reconnect with a few friends that I had lost touch with over the past year or so.

It’s not such an out-of-touch concept – I’ve always focused on surrounding myself with the most amazing, inspiring people I can find (yes, friends IRL, I’m talking about you). But when you’re going through something like a job hunt, relationship transition, or whatever other significant thing might be happening in your life, sometimes you need to just be with people who understand you. So friends fall in and fall out, and you reconnect when you’re all ready.

Many of my reconnections have been because of relationship transitions. More specifically, more single ladies.

And, having been a single lady for far too long, I’ve lost touch with some concepts. I’ve been discouraged, over optimistic, really, I’ve just been all over the spectrum. I’ve been a stronghold advocate of having a healthy relationship with yourself above all else.

And guess what? I’ve been putting my marriage to my job waaaaay ahead of my relationship to myself. And even when I feel like I’m rocking all things career-related, I find myself doubting myself in almost every other relationship.

So when I was chatting up said girlfriends on recent man-related wins and woes, they introduced a pretty amazing strategy: if you feel any negativity for any reason, drop it. Immediately.

smores3

SmoresBars2

It was hard at first, because the crazy cat lady in me wanted to hold on to and overanalyze every little thing.

But this is a healthy challenge. Let go of any negativity. With all my yoga preaching, I’m ashamed I didn’t pick this up earlier.

And thus begins an amazing week with the family. I’ll be camping next week, so enjoy this cast-iron skillet recipe for white chocolate and bourbon smores.

Continue reading “Bourbon and White Chocolate S’mores Bars”

Firecracker Popsicles

popsicles

My definition of “favorite holiday” has fluctuated over the years. As a kid, the Fourth of July was never really a big deal. It wasn’t like Christmas or a birthday — we didn’t get presents and there wasn’t any special sort of character that came to visit. I actually don’t remember many of my childhood Fourth of Julys… they were always relatively tame.

But in D.C., Fourth of July is the greatest holiday. Ever.

I remember when I was still working at the Department of Labor — there was a little yellow concessions stand right outside the main entrance, facing the Capitol Building and the National Mall. Rachel and I used to schlep outside on the hottest days (it was frigid inside because of the air conditioners) and we’d grab ice cream snacks.

Firecrackers were always my top choice. And when you’re in one of the most American places on the planet, every ice cream cart is well-stocked with Firecracker pops.

popsicles7

popsicles8

I even proactively purchased popsicle molds just so I could make my own Firecracker pops this year — I purchased these ones from Amazon — and they came with popsicle sticks. And, I prefer the classic look.

So, popsicles are pretty easy, right? You make some sort of liquid, fill the molds, and freeze overnight. Well, I tried this with coffee, and the coffee came out so rock-hard-icy that it hurt my teeth. I figured that this time, I’d run each liquid through the ice cream maker so they would soften up. WRONG. Don’t do this. Most of the pops were too soft to be pulled out in once piece.

So I’ve adjusted the instructions below to eliminate what I actually did in practice. Running the mixtures through the ice cream maker actually incorporated too much air into the mixtures, which kept them from freezing solid. Not running them through the ice cream makers should do the trick.

popsicles4

popsicles2

popsicles5

popsicles6

Firecracker Popsicles { Want more July 4th recipes? Check out my Fireworks Cupcakes and my Star-Spangled Tart from previous years }

Strawberry Sorbet, adapted from the Joy of Baking
1/3 cup simple syrup
2.5 cups strawberries, cleaned and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons vodka
1 tablespoon Triple Sec

Blueberry Sorbet, adapted from Simply Recipes
2 cups fresh blueberries, stems removed
1/3 cup simple syrup
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch of salt

Vanilla ice cream, adapted form David Lebovitz
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole or soy milk
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons bourbon

First, assemble the vanilla ice cream mix. Combine 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Keep an eye on it, and make sure it doesn’t boil over. Heat them until you start to get a nice froth on top, and immediately remove from the stove. In a mixing bowl, combine your egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla extract.

While whisking vigorously, gradually pour about 1/4 cup of the milk and cream mixture into your egg yolks and sugar. You really cannot whisk vigorously enough — you need to temper the yolks to ensure they don’t scramble. This is how we make a custard. Continue adding the hot milk in 1/4-cup increments until it is completely mixed. Filter the custard through a fine mesh sieve, and set aside in a jar. If you’re not one to wait around, set that jar in a bath of ice and salt water to speed the cooling process up. When it’s entirely cool, stir in the bourbon.

Then, create the other sorbets. This process is pretty easy — you just take all of the ingredients and pulse grind them in a food processor until the fruit is entirely pureed. Keep the strawberry and blueberry sorbets separate, and let chill in the refrigerator until the vanilla ice cream is cold.

Assemble the popsicles. First, spoon the blueberry sorbet into your popsicle molds. I’d go with 2-4 tablespoons in each mold, depending on the mold size. Go ahead and tap the counter with the popsicle molds a few times to get any bubbles out, and set in the freezer for at least two hours.

After the first layer is frozen, repeat with the vanilla ice cream mixture — spoon a bit into each mold, and tap on the counter. Freeze for one hour.

Then, fill the popsicles to the brim with the strawberry sorbet mixture. Insert popsicle sticks into each mold, and freeze overnight.

To remove, run the mold bases under warm water.

Brownie Saltine Ice Cream Sandwiches

saltinebars3

If you’re regular reader, you’re probably well aware of my obsession with sweet and salty combinations.

I honestly had the most wonderful weekend — these ice cream sandwiches were key, and probably should be part of every weekend for the rest of my life.

On Saturday, a handful of friends and strangers embarked on a river tubing trip. The weekend before, I had made these saltine ice cream bars. Naturally, I avoid them like the plague (especially when I know I’ll be wearing a bathing suit a few days later), so I piled the individually wrapped cracker bars into a ziploc and into a cooler bag. Let’s be real. I didn’t avoid them as much as I should have.

brownies2

crackers

I borrowed Kristen’s car for the drive to West Virginia (and Virginia, and Maryland), and with fewer people tied to our bunch of inner tubes than I was expecting, I had way too many ice cream bars left. So after a couple of runs on the river (and a great roll of fisheye film), I did what I do best: I made friends.

There was the belligerent and NSFW-named team of 29 southern Marylanders who were too drunk to understand “does anyone want free homemade ice cream sandwiches?” but there was an awesome group of girls who were waiting for the bus back to the parking lot at the same time. So I did the college thing and walked over with a bag of melting ice cream bars.

How to make friends 101.

saltinebars1

crackers2

saltinebars2

cream

It even escalated to my handing out blog business cards (they’re just the cutest) and one of the girls begging me to cater a bridal shower — why not?

And it even carried through the evening, when I was out to drinks, and complimented a random lady’s super pretty criss-cross backless dress. I’m not exactly sure how it turned into a card exchange, but hey, it’s DC. At least my cards have photos worth salivating over.

cream2

Sunday was spent sleeping in, and eventually just chatting in my living room with the Baltimore friends, which later faded into a spontaneous sailing trip on the Chesapeake Bay. Gotta love being friends with awesome people who know other awesome people. I really couldn’t have asked for a better weekend.

This week, there’s a lot of freelance, and a lot of True Blood. Due to too much flopping in bed this weekend, I didn’t get anything cooked… so we’ll see how I hold up.

saltinebars4

Saltine Brownie Ice Cream Bars, mostly from Lady and Pups

Continue reading “Brownie Saltine Ice Cream Sandwiches”