Hazelnut Lemon Cake with Roasted Blueberries

Hazelnut lemon bread & roasted blueberries // sweetsonian

Hazelnut lemon bread & roasted blueberries // sweetsonian

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.

Hazelnut lemon bread & roasted blueberries // sweetsonian

Hazelnut lemon bread & roasted blueberries // sweetsonian

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.

Hazelnut lemon bread & roasted blueberries // sweetsonian

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?

Hazelnut lemon bread & roasted blueberries // sweetsonian

Hazelnut Lemon Cake with Roasted Blueberries, adapted from Diana Rossen Worthington

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Matcha & Mint Ice Cream

match & mint ice cream // sweetsonian

match & mint ice cream // sweetsonian

Swamped! Too much work. Not enough ice cream.

Hope you all enjoy the mild summer weather we’re having here in DC. And… make this ice cream. You won’t regret it.

match & mint ice cream // sweetsonian

match & mint ice cream // sweetsonian

match & mint ice cream // sweetsonian

match & mint ice cream // sweetsonian

Matcha Green Tea & Mint Ice Cream

Ingredients:

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
5 egg yolks
2 tablespoons ground matcha powder 

 Instructions:

Combine the milk, cream, and matcha powder in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil for just a moment, and reduce the heat to low. Add the mint leaves into the saucepan, stir and muddle with a large spoon, and turn off the heat entirely. Let the cream steep with the mint leaves for 30 minutes to one hour — the longer it steeps, the stronger the mint flavor.

In a separate bowl, combine the egg yolks and the sugar, mixing with a fork. When you’re done steeping the cream, run the mixture through a sieve to remove the mint leaves. Then, turn the heat back on, and bring the mixture to a boil once more, again, immediately removing the heat once the boil starts.

Using a smaller measuring cup (I used a 1/4 cup), slowly pour the hot mixture into the bowl with one hand as your vigorously stir the mixture with a fork in your other hand. Gradually add one or two cups until the custard is fully incorporated, and then combine the custard with the remaining cream in the saucepan. Run the mixture through a sieve one more time to filter out any egg scrambles. Let chill completely in the fridge, and run the mixture through an ice cream maker according to its manufacturer’s instructions.

Fig and Bourbon Fizz

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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.

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Green Herb Shrimp with Summer Squash Quinoa

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Oh, to be a freelancer again.

That extended vacation from Google was quite nice. But… it’s 1:40 am and I still feel like I have a ton of work to do.

Cooking store-bought zucchini isn’t anything like cooking summer squash from the garden, so this definitely brought back some great memories from the house on Capitol Hill. It feels like it’s been ages.

I have a deadline in the morning, but Adriana (the bestie from middle/high school now roommate) and I have a date with Caroline Wright’s Twenty Dollar Twenty-Minute Meals tomorrow. So I need to make sure I have a couple of free hours in the evening to cook a proper dinner!

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So, all that being said, I’m going to refrain from writing a full post tonight. I have a playlist and a fun twist on my own personal comfort food in store for you this week. No more of this letting-weeks-without-blogging escape my grasps.

And hopefully, you’re getting more sleep than I am this week!

I know, I know what you’re thinking. I chose this life. Womp, womp. I did. And I love/hate it (mostly love).

Until tomorrow, you have this: Sara Forte’s shrimp with herbed quinoa. Her book called for cous cous, but I only had quinoa. So we made it work.

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Green Herb Shrimp with Summer Squash Quinoa, derived from the Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook Continue reading “Green Herb Shrimp with Summer Squash Quinoa”

Fresh Mint Chip Ice Cream

When I first started using the ice cream maker, I was obsessed with sorbets — I don’t know why.  But at the request of my friends, I switched to ice creams, starting with last month’s almond flavor.  The response was extremely favorable, reaching the point at which we even ordered almond-flavored ice cream at specialty restaurants, and it just wasn’t nearly as good.
I’ve mentioned before that I started a mini garden on my beautiful balcony; the thing that grows faster than anything else is the mint.  After all, it is a ground cover, and my family spent years digging it out of the yard at home in Los Angeles.  Luckily, my mint is sectioned off in a planter, so it can only really take over so much space.  We don’t drink nearly enough mojitos at my house, but we do eat lots of ice cream — and mint chip just seemed like the next best option.

(Read more…)

WHAT YOU NEED:

2/3 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 – 2 cups finely chopped dark chocolate

WHAT TO DO:

First, combine the mint leaves and sugar in a food processor.  Grind until the mint is very finely chopped and the sugar takes on a light green color.  In a small bowl, combine the egg yolks with the sugar-mint mixture.  Then, heat the milk and heavy cream over the stove.  Bring to a boil, and then immediately remove from heat.

Remove about 1/4 to 1/2 of the milk solution, and mix with the egg yolks and sugar.  This gradual mixture allowed the eggs to be tempered, rather than scrambled like they would if you threw the yolks into a pot of steaming milk and cream.  Once the yolks form a smooth mixture, add the bowl’s contents to the saucepan.  Add the salt and honey, and bring to a boil once again.  Then let the custard cool completely, which took about 1 – 2 hours in my refrigerator.  Before transferring the custard to your ice cream maker, add in the chocolate, and stir.