Matcha Almond Cookies

matcha almond cookies // sweetsonian

matcha almond cookies // sweetsonian

I am a creature of habit. If I force myself to do something over and over again, as annoying as it is at first, the task gets easier every day. Part of this process is repeating this statement over and over again, because if I train myself to become a creature of habit, well, perhaps one day it will be true.

On the one hand, I am and have been a creature of habit in the past, but on the other hand, I am incredibly stubborn… and sometimes lazy. Perhaps laziness happens as a result of being a creature of habit — because if I make being lazy a habit, well, then I’m back to square one, right?

When I was a kid, I would lose things. Coloring books and dolls at first, but as I got older, keys, sunglasses, and lip gloss would just get left behind, recklessly abandoned on a daily or a weekly basis. My dad, at one point, had an intervention. I remember his sigh of disgust, as in, are you kidding me, Sarah? You lost something again?

The trick, according to him, was to make sure everything had a place to go. I nodded, but also knew that this was also his way of trying to get me to keep my room clean (saw right through that, Dad). The solution that worked for me, however, was to essentially narrate my entire life in my head. Have you ever done that? Every time I put my keys down, I’d think to myself, I’m putting my keys down on my desk. Or, I’m leaving my sunglasses in my car tray.

It works for things. But there are still habits — like waking up early and eating well. I know that I should do both, but it’s hard to do when you stay up late and agree to go to happy hour four nights in a row. So this is my own personal intervention.

Now that it’s August, it almost seems like summer is wrapping up and we’re going to squeeze in every last drop of warm weather. But like every other summer, I find myself itching for fall. In fact, I replaced a pair of boots in July (re: they were on sale!). 

These cookies were a symbol of lack of control. I made them a couple of weekends ago, when I had a Monday off. So what was two boxes filled with cookies gradually dwindled to one, and by Tuesday, I had eaten an entire box, so I hid them in my purse and handed them over to the coworkers.

This week was the beginning of my detox. My conscious effort to make a habit of not eating half a batch of cookies, and of not spending half of my paycheck on expensive dinners and cocktails. Tomorrow is a new day. But it does feel good, to set a goal and actually get into the habit of sticking to your guns. But the matcha cookies (and a last brunch at one of my favorite spots in DC) were some damn good indulgences, and I do not regret them.

matcha almond cookies // sweetsonian

matcha almond cookies // sweetsonian

matcha almond cookies // sweetsonian

Matcha almond cookies  Continue reading “Matcha Almond Cookies”

Red Velvet Crinkles

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It’s cookie season. The bane of my fitness’s existence (or lack thereof). I’ve probably eaten my weight in these crinkle cookies.

It’s also about that time of year when DC starts freaking ouuuuut about weather. It’s not raining too hard outside, but all of the paranoia has me worried about holiday travel.

I’ve been down that road too many times. After so many missed flight connections between last Christmas and this summer, I’ve already purchased all non-stop flights for the holidays. I refuse to let weather in Cleveland and Chicago and Dallas obstruct my travels.

In the meantime, I’ve been spending a lot of time inside. This weekend, Shaeda and I took an impromptu trip to Winchester, Virginia to visit our favorite thrift shop, as recommended by Sydney Lianne over at the Daybook — we even Tweeted at her and she tweeted back! It tied for the highlight of my day, along with the purchase of a 1970s automatic typewriter ($18) and a vintage mink stole ($65).

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Side note, self portrait. See what I did there?

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Anyway, after a day of driving and thrifting, I spent a glorious Saturday night in a bubble bath with some badly needed episodes of Dexter — my latest Netflix obsession. I also taught myself how to knit. That’s been fun. I desperately need a snood for these frigid bike rides to work.

Clearly, nothing that new has been happening here in DC. If you’re traveling this week, best of luck with the weather! Hope y’all have a lovely Thankgiving with your friends and families.

sidebyside

Red Velvet Crinkles, derived from Cooking Classy

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 & 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon milk (I use soy)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Lots of red food coloring… I used a few squeezes of red gel
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • ~1 cup powdered sugar for rolling

Helpful tools (with links to the ones I use):

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or silpats).
  2. In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt until evenly mixed. Set aside.
  3. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or an electric mixer, cream the butter and the sugar until it’s light and fluffy — maybe a 3-4 minutes. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and then mix in the vanilla, milk, and food coloring.
  4. I usually switch to the dough hook attachment when I mix flour in — because flour literally gets everywhere when I don’t — and then slowly add the flour to the batter. Once it’s combined, add in your white chocolate chips.
  5. Refrigerate the dough until it’s just slightly firm (I threw the bowl into the freezer for 5 minutes).
  6. Using a 1-tablespoon-ish scoop, spoon dough balls from the bowl into a cup of powdered sugar, coating evenly. Arrange on your baking sheets, a couple of inches apart.
  7. Bake for 13-14 minutes. This made about 30 cookies for me.

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)

Bacon Fat Gingersnaps

bacon fat gingersnaps

I’m a big fan of would-you-rathers.

Chalk it up to my at-times paralyzing indecisiveness, or penchant for the fanciful.  There’s something refreshing and enjoyable about choosing between two completely impossible or painfully awkward alternatives.

Here’s a kicker for you–if you had to choose only one to eat for the rest of your life, would you choose bacon or sausage?

Someone posed that question to me at work today.  Without even pausing to breathe, I answered, “Bacon. How is that even a question?”

(She’s a sausage girl, so needless to say, I think I left her a bit offended.  I stand by my choice.)

bacon fat gingersnaps

I suppose that now would be as good a time as any to talk about my feelings towards meat.  I can remember, with perfect saliency, the first time I bit into a cheeseburger.  I was seventeen.

The meat tasted sharp, rich, slightly metallic and like a bit of a come to Jesus.  Funny thought, coming from the mouth of a vegetarian.

I left that little morsel out.  Until I was seventeen, I was a vegetarian.  For anyone who knows me now, and has had the pleasure of witnessing me order steak frites, rare–this could come as quite a shock.  I more or less avoided most forms of meat (which, when you think about the background I come from maybe a sheer miracle) for the bulk of my childhood.  And one day, at the ripe old age of fourteen, I read Fast Food Nation from cover to cover and finally just put my foot down.  My mother humored me, under the assumption that this would be just a phase.

This was not a phase.

bacon fat gingersnaps

I can’t remember ever actually missing the stuff.  At that point in my life I had just phased meat out, so what was I really missing?

It turns out that my body had some other ideas in mind.  After years of diligent research, careful dieting and copious amounts of iron supplements, I got a pretty direct talking-to from my doctor.  Enough, she said, waving my iron count in my face.  Words like severe anemia and chronic fatigue flew around the room, and after some ardent protest I ceded defeat.

And what was I really missing?  The smell of sizzling bacon, apparently.

That first bite of an In-N-Out cheeseburger felt like a betrayal.  I was angry with myself for giving in, the way so many angsty teenagers can be, and I was livid with my body for failing me.  But it also felt…right.  The meat melted in my mouth, warm against the crisp lettuce and fresh tomato.  And just as soon as I’d started, I just couldn’t stop.

I’d like to say it’s been smooth sailing from that point forward, but let’s be honest.  It took a good week for me to keep any form of animal protein down in my stomach, but I haven’t looked back since.  Instead, I pay attention to what I put into my body, where it came from, how it was raised.  I savor each bite that touches my lips.

And I can answer that would-you-rather honestly.  Bacon, always.

This recipe provides the perfect solution for that excess ton or jar of bacon greases we’ve all accumulated at one point or another.  When Sarah and I first stumbled upon it I think we were equal parts appalled and intrigued.  There isn’t a lick of butter in it, and I can’t saying that miss it.

Seems to beg the question–would you rather?

Recipe after the jump.

Bacon Fat Gingersnapsslightly adapted from Epicurious Continue reading “Bacon Fat Gingersnaps”

GUEST POST: Humpday Chocolate Cookies

Humpday Chocolate Cookies

Humpday Chocolate Cookies

Sous chef Shaeda, here. I’ve been sharing the same mixers and cutting boards with Sarah for a couple of weeks now, and when it came time to whip up some magic in the kitchen I knew exactly what we needed. And how.

It’s just one of those weeks.

There is a sense of heaviness to the air that isn’t normally here this time of year. Winter has been clinging to DC, as of late. The weight of my green wool coat has been replaced by something entirely different, but still present. It’s the feel of a firm palm, gently pressing down onto my shoulders.

It’s spring here, though. Finally.

Nothing is quite the way it’s supposed to be. You know what I mean. The type of week where you long for Friday so much you can taste the anticipation in the back of your mouth. Nothing went quite the way I wanted it to from the moment I opened my eyes on Monday. After an impromptu but much needed trip to the West Coast, jet lag and hours of travel got the best of me. I woke up late, and from that very moment seemed to just escape falling into that weekly rhythm. Left my carefully-packed lunch sitting on the marble counter; neglected to include the address on an itinerary I swore I’d meticulously checked over and over.

After the events in Boston last week, we received an all-too-real reminder of how short and fleeting life is. It’s very easy to get swept up in the day-to-day minutia, to forget that each breath is a gift, not a right. The sudden loss this week of someone dear to me has punctuated that fact to me.

Humpday Chocolate Cookies

As a child, I had this habit. When things weren’t particularly going the right way, I would turn into myself. I’m almost certain I wasn’t the first (or only) child to use this as a coping mechanism, but I would close my eyes and imagine myself somewhere wonderful. Some place where the air was fresh and full of hope.

As a adult, I’ve learned to keep my eyes open. Gone is the complacent dreamer of yesterday; she stands tall and proud. I’ve learned to confront my demons head on. If that’s not enough, if I still I feel that weight on my shoulder, I bake.

Humpday Chocolate Cookies

When I stepped into the kitchen this week, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I’d left the oven idle for too long. Whenever I feel remotely stressed or glum, I reach for this recipe. This recipe has watched me grow. It’s held my hand through stress, through heartbreak; its watched me blossom from an unsure eighteen and ushered me into the unknown. Over the years, its become my hallelujah, hail mary, and reason to breathe when life decides to give it me a little too hard, to dig just a bit too deep. This is something I can always do right.

Today will be a better day.  On this Wednesday, I hope you’ll join me and give this recipe a shot. The balance of decadent chocolate and coarse salt will give you that extra push to make it to Friday.  Try and limit yourself to eating just one–I dare you.

Humpday Chocolate Cookies

Humpday Chocolate Cookies, egregiously adapted from Martha Stewart

8 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 stick butter
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup flour
1 and 1/3 cups brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extra
2 eggs
12 oz. chocolate chips of your choice
Sea salt for garnish (we used some Parisian grey salt)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a microwave safe bowl, combine the butter and the coarsely-chopped chocolate. Heat in 20 second spurts, stirring well until chocolate is almost completely combined. In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder; set aside.

Combine the sugars, eggs and vanilla extract in the bowl of standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a whisk, if your arm muscles can manage it) on low speed until light and fluffy. Add the melted chocolate until just combined, and then mix in dry ingredients. Once the flour mixture has incorporated, stir in the chocolate chips with a wooden spoon.

On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, scoop a heaping tablespoon of the dough. Take care not to crowd the pan, as these puppies will expand. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the tops glisten and crack. Sprinkle with grey salt while cooling.  Note: you do not want these baked to a crisp. You’ll regret it.

Chocolate Hearts with Espresso Cream Filling

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With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought a cute love story would be appropriate.

Clearly, it doesn’t involve me. It’s about my grandparents, who are just as madly in love today as the day they met.

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One night while I was in California, my grandparents hosted a birthday dinner for my dad. I made this cake.

Anyway, I convinced my grandparents to let me film them telling the story of how they met. If you have 9 minutes to spare watching this video, I suggest you do. It’s quite a cute story.

Anyway, I’ve been looking for an excuse to let that story out.

And, with Valentine’s Day just a few weeks away, I must turn to the mother of all dessert ingredients: chocolate.

My love affair with chocolate goes back a long way.

Aside from wishing I could sustain a diet almost entirely of chocolate, I loved it so much that I even based my high school speech class on the history and processing of chocolate. Yes, I stood behind a podium, in front of 30 teenagers, speaking for ten minutes… about chocolate.

I sure hope they remember something from that.

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I spent years as an international development geek, so when Divine Chocolate contacted me and asked me to write a post or two using their chocolate, I was ecstatic.

Divine Chocolate is a fair trade company that works with women in Ghana, a country that boasts the title of second largest cocoa exporter in the world. With the liberalization of Ghana’s cocoa market in the 1990s, one woman saw an opportunity to organize the cocoa farmers whose voices were not being heard (this hits so closely to what my last employer did that you’d think I’d deny its coincidence).

In this recipe, I used their cocoa powder — the cookies came out perfectly. And the packaging was so well-designed!

Try not to lick the screen.

8403890684_64eb65d163_z Continue reading “Chocolate Hearts with Espresso Cream Filling”

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

There are few things I love more than I love salt. There are few things that I love without salt — or any sort of seasoning.

Tomatoes. Avocado. Watermelon. Toast. Pasta.

Chocolate.

Salt enhances the basics. Like my friend Angela says, salt is the one thing that makes everything else taste more like itself.

In my earlier days as a semi-serious runner, I quickly discovered the consequences of electrolyte imbalances in your system. The three main ones you need are sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Deficiencies or imbalances between the three, combined with dehydration, caused excruciating side stitches for me — and my uncle taught me to keep bananas and magnesium supplements close by.

Sodium, well, we generally get a little too much of that in our diets as Americans.

Too much, yes, I guess there is such thing as too much sodium. But that doesn’t really stop me.

The combination of saltiness and sweetness when you salt chocolate is a flavor unlike any other I know — the chunks of salt accentuates the sugar in the chocolate. It’s crack-like. Not that I know what crack is like.

Knowing I am easily addicted to activities and substances, I should walk with caution. But for everyone else’s benefit, apply salt generously.

 

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted from the New York Times recipe

Ingredients
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 and 2/3 cups bread flour
1 and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 and 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 and 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 and 1/4 cups light brown sugar
2 large eggs
t teaspoons vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 pounds milk chocolate chunks or chips
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Coarse sea salt (pictured: Parisian gray salt) for garnish

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars with the whipping attachment, until light and fluffy. Add each egg one by one, and then combine the vanilla extract.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine your dry ingredients: both flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk until evenly mixed.

Add the dry ingredients slowly to the butter and sugar mixture — I broke the batch into thirds, making sure each third of the dry ingredients was fully incorporated before adding the next third.

With a wooden spoon or spatula, mix in the chocolate chunks and the pecans by hand.

Roll the dough into 1.5 inch pieces, and give a few inches between each piece on your baking sheet for spreading. Sprinkle a few chunks of your salt on each cookie.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges are a golden brown.

Snow Dusting, and Snowflake Cookies

I complained a lot about last winter.  I really did.
In retrospect, I would take it all back.  That’s not to say that it hasn’t been horribly cold for the past few days.  The cold bites.  It chills me to the bone, and I walk to and from work every day.  But I’d take this, any day, over a DC summer.  I am elated to not be sweating in front of my air conditioner amidst extreme humidity (for four, arguably five, months).  I revel in actually needing my down comforter.  And I’m wild about snow.
But for as much as I love and appreciate winter, I’ve never been a huge fan of what we know as the “Christmas spirit.”  I grew up in one of those neighborhoods that over-decorates, and is ridden with cars and teenagers selling hot chocolate on the street, with children hanging out of SUV windows in gridlock as they drove by my parents’ minimally decorated ranch-style home.  I’m actually not a fan of Christmas decorations, most holiday songs, or shopping.  I shudder at the thought of buying a Christmas tree as a young adult, for which my friends call me a Grinch.  But the holidays are worth so much more — spending time with the people you care about, and new beginnings.  Well, maybe the new beginnings aspect is unique from my perspective, considering it was around the holiday season last year when I began to feel settled in Washington.  The holidays are about what cold weather makes us want to do: stay warm, inside, with our friends and family.

While I was in college, my family decided to cut back on the presents aspect of Christmas.  For the young kids, it was okay to get gifts upon gifts, but for the adults, it was pointless and just too extravagant.  We set a $10 limit on Christmas presents, which basically turned the Gerrity Christmases into giant wine exchanges (fine by me).  Even with the little kids, the big presents never seemed to be their favorites; a couple of years ago, I bought my little brother, who is now six years old, a blinking red reindeer nose.  It cost me two dollars, and won the prize for best gift overall.  Kevin refused to take off the nose for days and days after Christmas, which keeps reminding me that gift-giving isn’t about getting what you want — it’s about finding ways to make the people around you feel loved.
Yesterday, we got a little bit of snow in Washington.  Nothing big, just a little dusting.  I was in my kitchen, of course, when I noticed it outside — the light pollution in my neighborhood gives the sky a seductive violet glow, and the falling snow just settles itself onto the balcony, the railing, and my bike.  With the clothes dryer and the oven going, our window panes fog up along the ceiling.  It was just charming. 

Since this is just my second winter, I stood in my kitchen and compared it to last winter.  And after I baked these snowflake cookies, I watched the snow fall outside my bedroom window as I read a book.  I felt at home.  Winter is finally here, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.