Quick bread and butter pickles

quick bread and butter pickles // sweetsonian

quick bread and butter pickles // sweetsonian

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.

Hope you all had a lovely Labor Day weekend! Xo.

quick bread and butter pickles // sweetsonian

quick bread and butter pickles // sweetsonian

quick bread and butter pickles // sweetsonian

quick bread and butter pickles // sweetsonian

Quick bread and butter pickles – small batch, for two pint jars  Continue reading “Quick bread and butter pickles”

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.

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.

The Real Greek Salad

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When I was traveling in Norway with Silje, every now and then, we would stop in our sentences and say to ourselves: I can’t wait until we’re in Greece.

Something Silje always added on was how excited she was to have Greek salads, every day.

I kind of brushed it off, because I was more or less just looking forward to feta cheese, all day, every day.

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Upon arriving in Greece, I quickly learned that I did not full understand what she meant by Greek salads. I actually ended up having a Greek salad at almost every single meal. Generally, Silje and I would each have our own Greek salads, and then split whatever the entree of the night was.

You see, here in the States, “Greek salad” could mean one of a billion things. It usually means some sort of vegetable mixture with too much dressing and a scoop of crumbled feta cheese. I’m guessing that the addition of feta just makes a salad “Greek.”

It could not be farther from the truth. Anywhere in Greece, when you order a Greek salad, you get a bowl or plate filled with the freshest of the fresh, and simpler than I could ever ask for: cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, olives, capers, feta. No more, no less. Don’t let the impostors fool you.

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The Real Greek Salad, from, well, Greece.

1 medium cucumber
2-3 smallish tomatoes
A few slices of red onion
Black olives (with pits)
Capers
Fresh feta cheese – get a block, not the crumbled.
A drizzle of olive oil
Dried oregano for garnish

This enough for one salad – multiply accordingly for how many you’re serving.

First, peel the cucumber, and then slice in half lengthwise. Cut into half-inch chunks, and set aside.

Cut your tomatoes into quarters, and slice the red onion into wedges or slivers (I forgot the red onions in the photos. Don’t hate).

Slice about a half-inch sheet off of the block of feta. Toss the tomatoes, onion, and cucumber in a pretty bowl. Throw a few capers and olives on there, and arrange your slice of feta in the center. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with some dried oregano for garnish.

Enjoy the simplicity.

On New Year’s Resolutions

Looking back — 2010 was good to me.  I’ve never been one to set new year’s resolutions, but I’ve always believed that self-improvement was a never-ending goal.  And if I make a “resolution,” per se, it’s one of those “always put in one hundred percent” resolutions.  Like one year, I decided to look my best every day.  It wasn’t just about putting on make up or doing my hair before leaving the house, but about exercising, eating well, not drinking too much, and dressing to impress.  All in all, my resolutions gear towards making good decisions.
And sure, everyone makes bad decisions every now and then.  Like when my roommate ate her entire Advent Calendar in one sitting, or the time I had to opt out of a half marathon because I ran my body into the ground by running six days a week (I know, so stupid).  But for the most part, this year was filled with some epic wins, and minimal fails:

  • Staying employed.  Take that, recession.
  • Upgrading to a digital SLR — photography improved significantly.
  • Running my first half marathon (and signing up for my second!)
  • Leaving the federal government for a much better non-profit job.
  • Snowmageddon.  Best week ever!
  • Travel like whoa: Boston, NYC, LA, Delaware (two times each), then Louisiana/Mississippi, Bogotá, and a mini plantation in Virginia (arguably a Dachshund farm).
  • Hosting countless dinners at my house… favorites below.
  • Successfully teaching Rachel how to cook and run — our friends in Los Angeles couldn’t believe it.
  • Breaking into the international development blogosphere.  I need to work on that more.
  • Cooking about half of Christmas dinner for my family in California, thus demonstrating the cooking skills I’ve built up since moving out :)
  • Convincing a significant amount of people to move to DC this year.  You know who you are.

    And now, Sweetsonian in review — here are some of my favorite recipes, along with your favorites (thank you, Google Analytics).

    • Sweet Potato Fries and a Spicy Tomato Garlic Aioli.  By far the most popular recipe — it got almost 8k page views a couple of days after I posted it!  I have to say, it was one of my favorites, and definitely a favorite amongst my friends.  I made a variation of it for my family’s Christmas dinner in California — huge hit.
    • Bacon Jam.  I didn’t realize how obsessed the world is with bacon.
    • Mexican Tacos.  What a fun day that was!  I miss the days I spent with Silje, our Norwegian embassy exchange intern.  Here’s a resolution: see Silje this year.
    • Almond Ice Cream.  I just bought a new ice cream maker.  My affinity for almond ice cream will be a primary motivator behind my half marathon.
    • Pizza Bianca.  Also a favorite memory of mine — having my best friend visiting for July Fourth weekend in Washington.
    • Waffle Iron Panini.  You really should try this.  No need to buy a panini grill!
    • Chocolate Waffles.  By far my favorite thing on this blog, hands down.
    Happy new year, world!  Thanks for reading, commenting, tasting, and testing my kitchen work.  I look forward to all of your feedback in the year to come.