I’ve had these photos in store, but it’s been a while since I’ve been able to sit down and put together a decent set of words.
There’s probably just a handful of days left in DC for grabbing summer tomatoes — run! do so quickly! — so I figured I needed to post this recipe ASAP.
It’s been an exhausting couple of weeks, filled with freelancing and negotiating photo rights, but I’m looking forward to a relaxing weekend filled with yoga, sleep, and reading. I’m putting a do-not-disturb sign on my life. Have a great fall weekend! Xo.
Quick post as I catch up on projects and emails — bread and butter pickles are my absolute favorite. This recipe is fast, simple, and will leave you with the perfect pickle to throw on sandwiches, mix into salads or deviled eggs, and to eat straight out of the jar with a fork.
When the weather gets warm, I get food lazy. As in, I’m too lazy to actually cook, and end up just throwing together meals I can eat raw — salads, carrots and hummus, fruit… you know. And it’s okay, because the produce tastes better in these warmer months, anyway. I’m just waiting for it to get really hot, because the only good part about heat and humidity is the tomato season.
And when summer hits, you start hearing everyone talking about adventuring for some crab meat — in this part of the U.S., that means getting your hands covered in Old Bay and picking away at some Maryland Blue Crab.
My first foray into crab-eating was when I waited tables — at that seafood restaurant in Southern California, that I’ve written about so much. I know pretty much everything there is to know about seafood because of that job, and I’m generally grateful for that.
At the restaurant, we had live dungeness crabs, but in most of the salads, like around most of the U.S., we used canned jumbo lump crab meat, caught and packaged in the South Pacific (not so glamorous, but just say “South Pacific” and everything sounds better).
Now that I live so close to Maryland, pickin’ at crab is a cherished summer activity, perhaps after a beautiful day sailing or floating on a donut-shaped inner tube at the shark tooth capital of the world. If you have access to fresh jumbo lump crab meat at your grocery store, it will taste slightly less briny and will only be slightly more expensive — but otherwise, canned jumbo lump crab meat works a-okay.
The tartness from the lemon makes this salad perfect for a hot day, provided you’ve just pulled the ingredients out of the fridge. I, in fact, ate one for dinner one night, and jarred another to take to work the next day. The flavors held up perfectly.
Crab and Artichoke Green Salad, derived from the Fast Diet Cookbook
1 can artichoke hearts
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3.5 oz. lump crab meat
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced chives
salt and pepper
1.5 teaspoons olive oil
3.5 oz (ish) arugula or mixed greens
First, remove and drain both the crab meat and artichokes from their respective cans. While they’re draining, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, zest, salt, pepper and minced garlic in a small bowl. Slice the artichokes, if you prefer.
Toss the greens, chives, artichokes, and crab meat with the dressing. Serve with fresh shavings of parmesan cheese.
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?
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.
It’s been a while since I worked in the restaurant business. But, aside from the managers I worked for, I do look back on my days as a hostess and waitress pretty fondly. I was by far one of the youngest people working in that restaurant, and frequently referred to as the baby — which I never really minded. It was only another means for me to dip my toes into the social lives of the wait staff of Los Angeles, which is its own beast in and of itself.
Back then, I always felt like I had multiple lives. There was my life at UCSB, pretty and pristine on the beach, with jungle juice (bleghh), running to the Goleta Pier, and fake-fighting with my gay over the hot TA that would eventually become one of my oldest friends. Then, there was my life at the restaurant, counting cash in my parents’ car, triple-seating my ex’s new love interest whenever she picked a fight with the guy, and capping off our late-night shifts with underage cocktails at Fridays (the mojitos were exciting back then, but I shudder at the thought of ever going back to a TGIFridays in the San Fernando Valley). And finally, there was my life at UCLA — football games on the weekends, Red Bull all-nighters in Powell Library, and finally living in my own apartment in Westwood.
The worlds rarely collided. It was as if I teleported between entirely different dimensions when I crossed the borders between Los Angeles, Calabasas, and Santa Barbara.
I wouldn’t trade in those days for anything. Since then, friendships have come and gone, and my little brother is even working at that exact restaurant. I see patterns in his social life and his thought processes that reflect what I went through as one of the younger members of a restaurant that was about to graduate from college.
And he mentions things like trying to hide his relationship with another hostess, and, well, I did the same thing when I worked there. But in hindsight, I try to give him advice that would help him be less foolish than I was — even though I know too well that those words of wisdom would be fruitless to a 21-year old in lurve.
Perhaps I don’t want him to get attached because I know that it’s easy to get lost in these worlds. Being 19 or 22 in college in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara feels so unreal at this point in my life. The things I worried about then, the silly problems that stressed me out or made me feel invincible or made me cry — looking back, I wish I knew so much more about why they did or didn’t matter. I come from a family that doesn’t acknowledge emotions at all, so I had no idea what depression was when I went through it. I didn’t know what it was until it hit me in the face. But since leaving California, I feel like I’ve inadvertently surrounded myself with people who have their own stories, their own comparisons of their separate lives that have helped me understand my emotions, how to become more self-aware, and when to recognize when you have real issues to face, or when you’re having a mini panic attack over something that will be an invisible speck in the grand canyon view of your entire life.
And really, I’ve just recently come to terms with anxiety — what it is, what it actually feels like, and how to deal with it. Emotions are so incredibly layered, and part of me wishes I met the people I’m so close to now back in high school, when self-awareness could have come in so, so handy. These days, I can just pop some ibuprofen after one too many cocktails, or something else when I realize that I’m physically stressed about something that really doesn’t matter. Like when I’m suddenly overcome with doubt or guilt for some memory that pops into my head from my waiting days or from high school. It’s weird how the littlest memories can strike the most negative or positive emotions for me. Perhaps, you know what I’m talking about.
That being said, science is a wonderful thing. And so are friends who help you through your anxiety. Maybe I’m just rambling at this point.
This recipe was actually one of the recipes on the menu at that restaurant I worked at, where I went through just roller coaster after roller coaster of emotions. I even checked their current menus to see if it was still there, but they’ve since taken this artichoke item off — so I improvised as closely as I could. It was pretty successful, and brought me back a little bit, for better or for worse. For the good moments, it’s nice to sit in bed and reminisce the late nights we spent smoking cigarettes in backyards in Los Angeles, or the pool parties I used to throw in my parents’ Christmas-light-ridden backyard. For the anxiety-inducing moments that I can’t push out of my head on my own, well, there’s always a half a Xanax in my bag. I’ve never been so thankful for science.
Disclaimer: I promised Shaeda I would wait to make this until she was in my apartment. I broke that promise. But can you blame me?
Toad-in-a-holes take me back to being a little kid, visiting my grandmother. I don’t know if you all remember this, but before the American Girl dolls were a thing, the American Girl books and paper dolls were a thing. And being the bookworm that I was, I powered through all of them. Naturally, I look most like Samantha (most is a stretch) so she was my favorite, but my grandmother, having grown up in New York during World War II with the victory gardens and all, well, her favorite was Molly.
And when I was sufficiently obsessed with the book series and the stories of all of the characters (Grandma read every single book after I powered through each one), they came out with a series of cookbooks. I can’t remember if I had every single one, but I know that I had Molly’s. And, one of the recipes we made — usually for breakfast for Grandpa — was the toad-in-a-hole. A piece of toast with a hole in it, and a fried egg right into the bread. It’s delicious.
And I’ve had this idea for a few weeks now. A toad-in-a-hole grilled cheese. It’s been making me salivate. And with all the spin classes I’ve been going to, well, I’ve been letting myself ease into some carbs. So I made this.
But I wanted it to have a kick. So I threw on some sriracha. Obviously, it would be fun to use homemade sriracha, but I haven’t been home much lately, so I haven’t made any of that this year. The classic green top worked out great.
My only regret is that, next time, I’ll add in some slices of avocado. Now that would be perfect.
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.
Yesterday was — well, I’m pretty darn sure — the best day of my life. A coworker hooked me up with one of the much-coveted White House tour tickets. Being the first day the White House has reopened its tours since sequestration’s budget cuts took place back in January. So it was a pretty exciting day, for anyone who was able to finally get a tour, and for the people who work at the White House.
We were held up in the East Room for what felt like forever when a friend commented on one of my Instagrams about POTUS and FLOTUS surprising everyone on the tours, so as you can imagine, my heart started racing. What would I say? Was it true? Would they still be there?
The secret service closed the doors to the Green room right when we were about to go through, which put us in front of the line for the next group. And once the doors reopened and we were shuffled through, I was greeted by none other than Michelle Obama herself, in all of her glowing glory. That woman is pretty in photos, but hot damn, she is 43290423 times prettier in person.
Anyway, being from Los Angeles, I’ve met my fair share of celebrities, but Michelle takes the cake.
I. Was. Starstruck. Especially when she greeted us with a big smile and a “HIIII! Welcome to my house!” Cue Sunny jumping all over her and my coworker. I, naturally, beelined to Bo, who was sitting a few feet away, simply panting and rolling his eyes at Sunny, who was literally leaping and bounding from the visitors, to the First Lady, to the people behind the cameras. I pet Bo for as long as I could, which was apparently too long, because Secret Service basically escorted me out.
My heart was racing for at least 30 minutes after that. Marissa and I proceeded to jump up and down and scream on the White House driveway.
Seriously, best day of my life, and those dogs are the fluffiest dogs in the world. So. Effing. Cute.
This recipe comes from a friend and owner of yet another unbelievably adorable Portuguese water dog — Ollie. Maybe someday, Michelle will read this and schedule a play date for Ollie and Sunny. They’d make a darling couple.
It’s been a lazy couple of weeks, I’ll admit. With the government shut down, I have little to do when it comes to deadlines, and even less motivation to “get ahead” on design work.
Luckily, I work for a results driven team that can balance taking advantage of the needed breather while still being productive. Wednesday, we spent the day in Alexandria at our developers’ offices, testing our website’s almost-ready mobile responsive designs. It was nice to find myself in a design firm office — free soda, coffee and snacks in a fabulous kitchen! And, they have catered lunches once or twice each week. It’s such a step up from my government job, where we have to pay for our own water service. We don’t even have a kitchen. It kinda sucks.
So, I find myself washing the mixing bowl I use for my lunch salads in the bathroom. We make do.
Despite the lazy weather and lazy week, I’ve found myself pretty darn busy after the work day ends. Be it happy hours or dates or underground Thai restaurants that take you on “heat journeys” (as my supper club companions would describe) — these intimate rendezvous are what a perfect fall is made of.
Weeks ago, Emily (roommate and resident birthday girl) came home with basically a case of this amazing canned tuna — once cooked, and all canned right on the boats they’re caught on, somewhere near Moro Bay, California. It’s not your typical canned tuna, so if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some, I highly recommend it.
We’ve been on a bring-your-lunch-to-work team effort, so this Italian tuna salad was on our to-do list a week or so ago. It packs perfectly in jars, and doesn’t have a scent that permeates the entire office, which verifies that premium quality that the brand boasts.
Anyway, it may be a rainy weekend in DC, so you’ll find me snuggled up with a Norwegian sweater, an entire French press of coffee, and a copy of The Fault in Our Stars. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect weekend.
4 sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 red onion, minced
1 (12-ounce) can solid white albacore tuna in water, drained
1 rib celery, chopped
1/4 cup pitted nicoise olives
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Suggested serving: whole grain breads or bountiful greens
Drain and chop your sun dried tomatoes before transferring them into a medium bowl. Then, after mincing your red onion, soak the pieces in cold water for 10 minutes — this will mellow the flavor. Drain the onions, pat dry, and add to the bowl with the tomatoes.
Drain your tuna, and break it into large chunks using a fork. Toss with the celery, olives, and capers. Drizzle with olive oil, lemon zest and juice, and basil, tossing again. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with cold greens or hot bread.