Wednesday, May 30, 2012

nostalgia wednesdays: sister birthdays

My sister and I were born two years and five days apart. Growing up, people even mistook us for twins, which, honestly, is hilarious, because we fell pretty far apart on the appearance spectrum (blond haired, blue eyed, pale vs. brunette, brown eyed, and tan), and I don't think we were ever that close in size until we got older. Aesthetic differences aside, we tended to celebrate our birthdays as if we were, in fact, twins. My parents always made sure to get us essentially the same things, just in different colors, so that no one felt favored or left out. 

I don't know if we fully appreciated the proximity of our birthdays at the time, but I really, really miss celebrating my birthday with her now that we're grown up and live apart. This year we'll be in Denver for our cousin's wedding a week after her birthday, so I imagine we'll attempt a belated celebration. 

If we were home in NC, I'd totally make her/us these cookies

I've had a go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe since I was in middle school. In general, I'm very "no, this recipe is acceptable, decent or good, even, but I'm not going to branch out from the safety of its mediocrity." Analyze that as you wish. I'm busy eating my new recipe's cookies. 

I'm not sure what convinced me to put my old recipe aside and take a new one for a spin. Maybe it was the effusiveness of the blogger's description of the cookies. It certainly wasn't the universe, which was clearly trying to tell me something the day I decided to make these suckers. 

I had forgone my lovely bright pink rain boots that morning in favor of flip flops, deeming the 30% chance of rain negligible. A comically torrential downpour set in shortly after my detour from the metro to the grocery to get the last few ingredients, when I was about 2 blocks from my apartment, nearly safe and dry. In a mere two blocks, I was soaked up to my waist, even with an umbrella. It rained so hard so quickly that the rivers of running water were ankle-deep. I was so tempted to toss my umbrella aside, kick off my flip flops, and just splash around like a kid.  

The two new bags of flour, cake and bread, that I had just spent $8 on to concoct these supposedly life changing cookies, were soaked. I had forgotten, again, to restock my toilet paper supply, and had to meet one of my Venice friends for dinner in two hours, but by God, I was going to make those dang cookies. Or rather the dough, for the recipe demands that you wait at least 24, but preferably 36 hours, to bake them. 

You should check out the original blog post about the recipe. It lists all sorts of secrets to the success of the world's greatest cookies, all of which I attempted to adhere to strictly. I even followed the blogger's lead and tested the dough at various points in the process. 

I can't lie, my go-to recipe will always hold a special place in my heart, and I'll always think of the cookies as the dessert that stoked my love for baking. But these newbies are pretty amazing. They're an awfully significant time commitment, and there's the whole need for two types of specialty flour, but they are awfully sinfully good. Sister birthday good, you might say.

I hope you have an occasion to give them a try, even if the universe does its best to dissuade you, too. In the meantime, happiest birthday to my beautiful sister. See you in a week!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

welcome, 26

I've always been fortunate to feel really loved and celebrated on my birthday. Except that one year when my Mom forgot it was my birthday. Kidding, she totally would've remembered eventually had I not obnoxiously reminded her at the gas station on our way to the OBKB lodge for the annual May birthdays/Memorial Day weekend. I was, after all, something like eleven years old, and birthdays were an even bigger deal back then, right? 

Anyways, while I really missed being at the lake with my family this year, I genuinely had an amazing weekend. I feel like I packed a ton of summery events in, got a little tan in the process, and spent time with some really great friends. It all wrapped up last night with a great little Monday dinner with Sophie and Hong-Nhu. 

I made my new chicken recipe for the THIRD time in, I don't know, a week, Hong-Nhu brought a great salad, I heated up some of the smoked gouda mac and cheese I set aside from a cookout I went to on Sunday, and Sophie brought dessert. Not just any dessert, mind you, but peanut butter pie, a long-time favorite of mine, which was so sweet of her to remember. She even brought candles, which valiantly managed to hold their own despite the fact that the pie succumbed a bit to the oppressive heat. 

After I blew out the candles, we ended up scooping it straight out of the pie pan, bits of oreo cookie crust and all, as we watched yet another awful episode of The Bachelorette, transfixed and horrified by the cheesiness unfolding before our eyes. It was the perfect way to kick of my twenty sixth year, which, not to totally jinx it, is off to a great start. Twenty five had some serious curve balls, but coming in to this birthday, I've never felt so happy and content. You could even say I'm glowing.    

Sunday, May 27, 2012

the anti-bbq

What better timing could I ask for than to share a birthday with a long holiday weekend every year? While I'm not off at the beach or the lake, I'm enjoying a little staycation in DC, full of random things like a new favorite cookie recipe, concerts by the water, furniture painting, pool time, and cookouts with friends. If I can't be celebrating with my family at the OBKB lodge, I think this is a pretty good back up series of festive events. And, I kind of feel like they're here in spirit since they so sweetly sent a dozen cupcakes for me to enjoy with my friends this weekend!  

I'm sure you're all equally occupied with inaugural summer activities, so here's quick little red curry recipe to whip up when you've tired of burgers and beer. Actually, it goes pretty well with beer. 

Anyways, I started with this recipe, but ended up just adding enough curry paste and coconut milk until I liked the taste and consistency. I tossed in red peppers, carrots, and green beans as the sauce was simmering, and ultimately mixed it all together with basmati rice and some fried tofu. It doesn't have the same complex flavors of restaurant curry, but it's a perfect quick weeknight concoction for when you're short of time (and funds).

Happy Memorial Day to all of you (and happy birthday weekend to me)!     

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"man, you really like butter"

When it comes to cooking, my biggest problem used to be that I simply refused to cook. When I gave up eating out for Lent, unexpected post-work plans were often my biggest challenge. Now that I cook on a more regular basis, portion control is the issue du jour.

I'm not a total idiot, I realize that most recipes are designed to serve two to four people. And somewhere in the back of my rapidly atrophying brain, there's a part of me that can do basic divison. But, I'm my mother's daughter, and as such, inherited her irrational but omnipresent fear that there won't be enough food to go around the table. Even if, in my case, the table is only set for one. 

So most nights, but especially on nights when I feed more bodies than just myself, I have an abundance of leftovers. Luckily, this makes lunch the next day a no-brainer, and, it means that my coworkers are kind of bribed in to liking me because I feed them. 

For this week's Monday dinner with Sophie, I tried two new recipes. One was for mac and cheese made with quinoa in place of "mac." I was skeptical, especially because the recipe calls for an egg (I know!). But, with a little buttery, bread crummy crust on top and gooey cheese underneath, you basically forget you're eating an egg mixed in with a superfood. It's super filling, and even with soy milk and skim cheese, it's tasty. The recipe, by the way, is not at all lying, not even close, when it says it makes 8 servings. Two of us ate it for dinner, and three of us ate it for lunch the next day. I still have more leftover than I can use.

Anyways, the other recipe I tried was for "moist chicken every time." I know, I know. The name is, well, cliche, and, far from humble. But, I was mostly curious to see if I could abide by the recipe's demand that you cook the chicken for one minute on medium, flip it over, turn the heat to low, and leave a lid on for twenty whole non-stop don't you dare lift that lid minutes. Ten of those minutes, the heat is on low, and the other ten, it's off. Look, I don't know what kind of magic happens in those twenty minutes, but it's some perfectly cooked chicken you're going to pull out of that skillet. And, because you dredge it in some flour and spices beforehand, it's not flavorless like many, many a skillet cooked piece of chicken ends up being. Awfully titled recipe aside, consider me a convert.

While I like to think of this as a healthy dinner, the truth is, there was a decent quantity of butter involved. When we were all eating the leftovers Tuesday, my one coworker asked me how the chicken was so good. I described the aforementioned cooking process, mentioning that it starts with a healthy pat of butter in the skillet, and before I could keep going, he looks at me in a mix of admiration and disgust, and goes "man, you really like butter." 

I'll have you know he ate every last piece of chicken.    

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

tour: part II

A couple weeks ago, I subjected you to a whole bunch of wide angle snapshots of my place that were from the the real estate listing, and promised that we'd eventually get around to the "after" photos. Well, I imagine I'll never be fully done decorating and tweaking, so I give you what I consider the "in progress" pictures, juxtaposed with the "before" in each room. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

celebration station

Neha and I at her birthday party on a rooftop in the shadows of the FBI building. So very "DC"

Sophie's and my birthday party at Churchkey

Last night was full of birthday festivities. I think over 50% of my friends and family have birthdays in May, so it's always a month full of celebration. We kicked off yesterday with a joint birthday party for Sophie and I in the afternoon at Churchkey, a local beer-tastic bar in the popular 14th Street corridor. Although we didn't come up with a hilariously embarrassing theme like the 30th birthday party across the bar from us, we still had a great time, and I left reminded of how lucky I am to have such amazing friends. 

Later in the evening, I went to a joint birthday party for my coworker/friend Neha, and one of her close friends. Their party was on the roof of her friend's building, which just so happens to call the FBI its neighbor. So while that top photo is too dark to see the details well, trust me, we were a stone's through from the Bureau's headquarters. Not that any stone we could have thrown would have done any damage. The whole upper part of the building is ensconced in weird tan colored netting. Very odd. It was a gorgeous night for rooftop celebrations, and the whole experience seemed very DC. The fact that I could then walk home just made it even better. 

So today I've done a lot of little projects, like cleaning my room, painting a bench, and snapping all sorts of "in progress" photos to follow up on "before" shots I shared a couple weeks ago, even though I'm still sleepy from yesterday's adventures. Despite the lingering tiredness, I forced myself to venture in to the LKTC and concoct a real dinner.     

I know, it's nothing fancy at all. No recipe involved, even. I tend to be pretty hard on myself for nights when I make the non-fancy stuff. I feel like I should always be trying out something new and complicated. But, there are just nights where the motivation and/or time isn't there, and I need to remind myself that on those nights, something simple is better than something fried and sold in a bar

So tonight, instead of eating my second bowl of ramen noodles or ordering take out, I sautéed olive oil, onions, garlic, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, and then poured in crushed tomatoes. I separately boiled my go-to veggie (peas) and this new Barilla pasta, which is tee tiny, and apparently infused with a full serving of veggies in each 100g portion. I was more enamored with the size of the mini wagon wheels than the advertised health perks, but, it was a nice bonus. For as often as I consume some form of pasta, it's good to know I can procure a slightly more nutritious variety at the grocery down the street.

I think, by the way, that it's pretty funny that in the span of a couple hours, I can get equally excited about child-sized pasta and 99 cent furniture paint. I think I'm simultaneously resisting turning a year older in a week and giving in to the fact that I'm a boring old lady who snaps up clearance paint for her new apartment. I suppose there are worse ways to kick off my birthday week... (yes, week).     

Friday, May 18, 2012


(from here)
Let me just tell you, closing on a place and having a birthday all within a week and half was the best accidental sequence of events I could have ever planned. Everyone is being so nice to me. And while acquiring a mortgage is one of the most intimidating things I've ever done, and has fanned the tiny flickering flames of commitment phobia, everyone I know is congratulating me as if I just climbed Mt. Everest or something similarly awesome. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm excited about the whole thing (although to be honest, having lived in the apartment for three weeks now, it seems a little anti-climactic), but it feels so wrong to accept all this praise for something that mostly required a lot of signatures. And don't even get me started on the guilt complex over everyone wanting to buy me a drink or lunch or the like. Just for signing a piece of paper (or a million)!

But, the celebratory spirit is contagious, and I'm definitely in that "puppy love" phase. You know, when you first meet someone new and think that person is the best thing since Google and you walk around smiling like a total goof ball? Yeah, eventually that wears off (especially if you meet the kind of men I do), but while you're in that phase, it is awesome and all-consuming. And that's where I'm at with home ownership. I just want to run around shouting "I finally live in DC! And I love it! So much more than I expected to love it! And I don't have to pay rent anymore!"

I suspect this enthusiasm will spill over and make for the best Jenny-Sophie joint birthday party yet. We apologize in advance to anyone who encounters the twelfth annual celebration this weekend!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

nostalgia wednesdays: i dolomiti

Yep, it's back, people. The Italy-nostalgia has reclaimed its rightful place in my (sub)conscious. It's all because Italy was one of the open house embassies my friend and I visited last weekend. In all of the general hecticness of working and happy hour-ing, and the specific hecticness of homebuying, I forgot just how acutely I miss Italy. But as I walked in to that embassy and heard Italian swirling around me, it hit me all over again. Today, I'm facing the imminent reality of closing on my apartment finally (well, that is if something else doesn't go wrong). I'm not much of a commitment phobe, but the gravity of this event is suddenly pressing down on me pretty firmly, sparking that urge to escape the sometimes oppressive pace of life in DC.

While that will likely come in the form of a quick trip home for my birthday, I found myself daydreaming of a trip five (five?!) years ago that a housemate and I took to the Dolomites in Italy. Venice, much like DC, can be a little heavy on the claustrophobia and light on the nature, and in the middle of our semester in the city, we were ready to see trees. Lots of trees.

I won't belabor the finer points of the trip. You can read all about them here if you're curious. All I'll say is that I'd give a whole lot to be back there on that mountain having a picnic of bread, cheese, and meat, and frolicking around like lunatics (I kid you not, we frolicked in a field...there is photographic evidence below).

mountainous picnic

I made my housemate frolic first. I was a little hesitant about the whole idea, and thought I'd feel and look ridiculous. Turns out I did, in fact, look pretty ridiculous, but I felt awesome.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

tipsy risotto

Yesterday, as you might remember, was a "didn't make it out of rainboots" day. When I woke up to the sound of rain torrentially assaulting the DC area this morning, I decided today would follow suit. Luckily my boss is ten times quirkier than me, and thinks I look "just adorable!" 

Because I was in such a weird/petulant/lazy mood yesterday, I was really struggling to come up with something, anything I wanted to cook for Monday dinner. This isn't a problem I have often, because I have a Pinterest board brimming with earmarked recipes, and I cook maybe three nights a week maximum. But, I realized that normal people who cook most of their meals must feel like that all the time. This is why my main splurge if I win the lottery is going to be hiring a chef. Well, that and commissioning a high-speed cruise ship/train hybrid so I never have to fly anywhere again. 

Anyways, I was apparently so pleased with myself for finally picking a recipe to try that, in my excitement, I dashed out of the office and left my umbrella sitting at my desk. Let me tell you, I love my bright pink wellies, but I feel awfully stupid splashing through puddles in them while my upper half gets soaked from the driving rain. I mean really, who remembers her wellies and forgets her umbrella? I felt like people I passed on the sidewalk were really confused. Then again maybe they were reacting to my suddenly crazy hair that sprang to wavy attention in the humid rain. It was a really attractive look for me is what I'm saying. 

But back to dinner. For whatever reason, the idea of red wine risotto popped in to my head. Don't ask me how or why, as I didn't even really know such a thing existed. Google informed me that yes, it does exist, and that Giada De Laurentiis makes a pretty tasty one. Sold!

I love pretty much anything with butter, onions, garlic, and carbs (not to mention wine), so I suspected this would be one of the exceptions to my weird "I don't enjoy things I cook" quirk. Fortunately, that inclination was spot on, and Sophie and I both had seconds as we watched far more trashy tv than one should ever admit to viewing. Much like last Monday's stir fry, I'm actually excited to delve in to the leftovers for lunch. I lead a super-glamorous life, clearly.

{Ps-It was easy to make as far as risotto goes, just some stirring here and there. I couldn't find parsley at the grocery by my house, and I generally loathe the stuff, so I skipped out on that. I also don't care much for cheese, so I put it on the table and Sophie stirred it in to hers, but I skipped out all together. I know most of you are probably shaking your heads right now, but, I thought it was insanely creamy even without the cheese. See, doesn't it look just fine, even sans-cheese? I thought so.} 

Monday, May 14, 2012

brunch in brief

Look, today is just one of those days where I'm not going to make it out of my rain boots and in to real, appropriate work shoes. I woke up on the petulant side of the bed, and, it's cold as the arctic in my office. So, the boots stay.

This grumbly, grumpy, rainy Monday mood means, lucky for you, I'm not really feeling very verbose when it comes to recapping the Mother's Day brunch Neha and I had yesterday (sans Mothers). We decided that since sadly we couldn't be with our families, we'd still celebrate. With bellinis and obscenely unhealthy food. Why not?

Having just declared my need to acquire non-buttery hobbies, I felt a fleeting moment of guilt as I drenched sugary dough in copious melted butter, then coated it with more sugar, then rolled it all up, cut it into tiny slices, and pressed them in to muffin tins filled with, cover your ears kids, more sugar and butter. But then Neha arrived and shoved a bubbly bellini into my hand and my guilt dissolved as I attended to the bacon sizzling, the potatoes browning, and the eggs scrambling on the stove.

It was all delicious. Even if we gained five pounds in one sitting. If you, too, have a butter problem, head on over to the "LKTC-tested recipes" page, where you'll find the sticky pecan mini-bun recipe, amongst dozens of others that call for at least a stick of butter. Then, we can all go shopping together for new pants.   

The Non-Mother's Day brunch spread

Pioneer Woman's Sticky Pecan Mini Buns
No, I do not wonder why my pants don't fit anymore...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

a diplomatic pub crawl

First, happy mother's day to this lovely lady!

Second, happy embassy open house weekend! Yes, that's right, I just made that a thing. Try to control your jealousy over my overt cool-ness.  

But really, if you live in DC and haven't heard of, or haven't been to, the embassies' open houses, you're really missing out. As we overheard one man say, it's like a diplomatic pub crawl! One of my friends introduced me to the concept last weekend when the non-EU embassies hosted anyone who cared to stop by. 

In the spirit of acquiring hobbies that don't involve baking desserts that call for more than two sticks of butter or meeting all the wrong men, I agreed to join her. Also, I'm preternaturally curious, and especially now that I live near a hand full of the gorgeous buildings, I've only become more interested in seeing the interiors of the many, many embassies that call DC home.

This weekend, a whole slew of the EU embassies opened their doors all over the District, and we covered many, many miles, making it to Belgium, Finland, Sweden, the UK, Ireland, Croatia, France, Germany, Denmark and at least one other that I'm forgetting. It seems to be a bit of a competition amongst the staffers, which works out to the visitors' advantage. 

I'm now the owner of half a dozen cloth grocery bags, pens, brochures, and key chains bearing countries' touristy slogans. And my friend and I needed neither cocktails nor lunch for all the free food and drinks the embassies were offering visitors to show off their countries' various claims to fame (think Belgian beer and waffles, British whiskey, etc). Given that there's no admission cost, it's pretty much an overall win. Even if the hidden cost is a touch of sunburn for this pale embassy hopper. 

Anyways, I was too busy nosily checking out the decor and gulping free snacks that I pretty much fully failed on the picture-taking front. But, here are a few from the UK embassy, which has some of the most expansive, impressive grounds I've ever seen within the boundaries of the District.    

British ambassador's home. I know. 

Diplomatic pub crawl aside, I also had a non-mother's day brunch with my friend Neha, who, like me, sadly couldn't be with her Mom today. But more on that later (spoiler alert: it involves that two stick of butter hobby of mine).

Friday, May 11, 2012

funky cookies

I by no means consider myself a total downer, but I am more of a realist/cynic than I am an optimist. Lately, though, I've been so bouncy and optimistic that I barely recognized myself. I'm honestly not even sure what brought it on, maybe my lingering infatuation with my new neighborhood? But yesterday, I came crashing back down to earth, my hot air balloon of optimism having been rapidly deflated. I also can't really pinpoint the force behind the sudden funk, but by the time I left work, I was really grumpy. I abandoned any intentions of being social, and headed straight for the kitchen, which is where I usually go to work that sort of mood out of my system.

Having scored a giant bag of chocolate chips for free using a birthday coupon at World Market, I decided to try a my hand at these triple chocolate espresso cookies. I tend to bake best when stressed, and, this recipe is basically butter, sugar, and chocolate, so my expectations were pretty high.

Fortunately, a glass of wine and a few of the cookies (consumed warm out of the oven) at least temporarily soothed my mysterious case of the blahs. All was almost lost when I switched Kitty the Kitchenaid stripper on not realizing the bowl wasn't locked in to place. Luckily my new kitchen did not end up bathed in chocolate. If there's one upside to a tiny space, it's that you're always within arms reach of just about everything, including a bowl full of batter that's about to careen off the counter.

Anyways, I'm happy to report that the cookies are as good the next day as they are straight out of the oven. Turns out they're only a temporary mood booster, though, as I still seem to be feeling a bit off, but I think that just means I need to eat more of them, right? 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

better than bar food

Sometimes I declare it a success if I eat dinner at all. Sometimes I declare it a success if I eat something other than bar food and beer for dinner. Sometimes I declare it a success if I actually cook something. A recent weeknight dinner falls somewhere between those last two. It was warm, it was made in my kitchen, and it wasn't half bad. 

It was, however, from a jar, basically. Sure, I boiled the pasta, cut the green beans, cooked the peas. But they all got tossed in pesto that came, yes, from a jar. It's not that I didn't have food in my pantry, but I've been having an unusually persistent craving for pesto lately, and by the time I stumbled in to the TJ's in my old neighborhood after an appointment one day, I was far too hungry to shop for the makings of the homemade stuff.

So maybe I used half the jar of pesto, made enough to feed a family of 4, and ate some of it out of the pan like I forgot my curtain-less kitchen window faces a busy side street. I'm just proud of myself for not giving in to that temptation to choose takeout over logging kitchen time, especially when ravenous. I'm also proud of myself for remembering a tip I saw somewhere to add a little pasta cooking water to your pesto sauce to thicken things up a bit. 

Never mind that last night, I did have bar food and beer for dinner. Little victories and all that...   

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

"long live broc"

For reasons I'm totally unclear on, I intentionally bought red meat for the first time in maybe nine months. I blame this on two things: one, I always get overwhelmed at the grocery and feel compelled to buy the most random, nonsensical things; two, I wandered in to the Safeway near my apartment in a haze of extreme exhaustion this past weekend. So the meat was tossed in my shopping basket along with one russet potato, a toilet brush, and some Ben and Jerry's (seriously, grocery stores of America, please stop putting ice cream on sale. I have no willpower, and my hips blame you when my pants don't fit, ok?). 

Anyways, I suddenly found myself too exhausted to cook said red meat over the weekend, meaning it had a date with destiny (aka a toasty skillet) for Monday dinner. I was too busy yesterday to figure out how exactly it would meet its ultimate end, so when I got home, I headed over to one of my standby sources: Dinner A Love Story. After cruising through their recipe index, I settled on a beef and broccoli stir fry dish that seemed simple enough, and was comprised almost entirely of ingredients I already had. Nevermind that it instructed the preparer to chill the steak in the marinade for two hours. I figured something just shy of the prescribed time wouldn't be a total show stopper.

And I'm so glad I decided just go for it, and to dash back to Safeway (for probably the bazillionth day in a row) and grab the sherry and sugar I was lacking. I made 1 1/2 times the prescribed marinade/sauce, because I like to have plenty of that to go around. I also added red and yellow bell peppers because, well, I felt like it. Being bold in the kitchen and all that. It was really, really "thank goodness I have enough leftover for lunch today" good!      

putting my new little ikea bowl into the dinner prep rotation

It's not that I think I'm that awful of a cook, it's just that I so rarely enjoy the food I prepare for some reason I have yet to successfully articulate. The same does not go, mind you, for the far less healthy baked goods I turn out. Nope, just the main meals. Which explains why I'm such a healthy person... 

But that is not the point. The point, friends, is that this is a perfect quick/easy/gratifying weeknight dinner. Sophie and I found, in fact, that it goes perfectly with a bottle of red, mindless tv, and that evil Ben and Jerry's.   

Monday, May 7, 2012

a (wide angle) tour

Ok, so, I have nothing new or exciting on the cooking front after yesterday's ramblings on the muffin/cupcake adventures. Hopefully I'll find some magical source of energy between now and quitting time, and will turn out something worth mentioning for dinner tonight. Until then, though, I figured it was time for a whole bunch of photos of the new place. These are all photos from the listing, and were mostly taken with a wide angle lens (it's surprisingly difficult to capture 850 square feet on film without such measures). I've since painted all but the kitchen, and (obviously) moved all my belongings in, as well as hung pictures and the like, so it looks a bit different now. But, it's been weird and overcast in DC lately, so I'm holding off on taking the "in progress" shots until it's sunny. Anyways, here's a little tour through the eyes of the listing agent's photographer!

You've seen this snapshot of the building's exterior before, I think, from my mourning of "the one that got away." Have we talked about how the one that got away came back? I can't remember. You'll hear the whole story soon, I promise. For now, join me in admiring its pre-war stately appearance...

This is, clearly, the little lobby. The desk is manned during the day by a couple of characters who'll give you your newspaper or packages.


This is maybe the weirdest wide angle shot of them all. It's my entryway. So if you were to walk in the front door, you'd be staring at that weird circular art the staging company put up. The open door on the far left is the bedroom, and the open door on the far right is the bedroom. The closed door on the near left is the bathroom, and the open door on the near right is the kitchen. My rough little hand-drawn floor plan is directly after the weird entry way snapshot (and yes, I'm totally an aspiring artist. How did you guess?).

The living area is narrow, but long-ish, and I'm happy to report that it comfortably accommodates all of my prior living/dining room furniture. As you well know by now, I'm a pack rat/future hoarder, so the idea of getting rid of any given piece really didn't sit well with me. 

And, as you've already seen, the new LKTC!

The bathroom is long and narrow, but has nice tile and newish fixtures. Oh and the tub is huge!

Speaking of huge, the bedroom, as you probably  noticed on the floor plan, is the major square footage hog in this apartment. It's the room that needs the most work on my part right now because it's feeling a little empty and cavernous. That door on the far wall is my closet, which as my mother says, and as you'll see, "is worth the purchase price all by itself."

Right hand side of the closet:

And the left:

Finally, a feature almost as welcome as a walk-in closet...a roof deck!

So, that's my little nest. I'm still absolutely in love with it, even though I'm quickly realizing life with window units is just a littttle bit different in DC summers than life with central AC.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

i walk the line

Or rather, the muffins I made this weekend do. The line between "cupcake" and "muffin," that is. I've had my eye on this recipe for coffee cake muffins since I first saw it last fall, but didn't find an excuse, or the time, to give it a try until this past Saturday, which offered a plethora of reasons to celebrate via sugary cupcakes/muffins. The derby, Cinco de Mayo, friends' birthdays, and the annual open house of dozens of foreign embassies in DC...take your pick. Any, if you ask me, is worthy of these little guys. 

Since I failed to take a photo, I borrowed this one

I really hope you have a reason to make these yourselves soon. They're really, really good. Like "wake up at 2 am for a snack and beeline for these" good (what, you don't do that?) My ignorance to general baking/cooking chemistry means I'm not quite sure what the key ingredient or ratio is, but I'm too busy stuffing my face to question it. 

As previously noted, the muffins are definitely toeing the line between breakfast and dessert. The brown sugar crumble that sits in the middle and on top of the muffin is distinctly breakfasty. But the springy, light texture of the muffin itself has a bit of a vanilla cupcake way about it.

Serendipitously, though, I think that's the perfect type of thing to bake for a day like Saturday that is also having a bit of an identity crisis. 

Hope you enjoyed your weekend of celebrations, too. I'm off to have dinner on the roof deck with a friend, who is bringing me the best housewarming gift yet: dinner itself!       

Friday, May 4, 2012

the three b's

Warning: nothing cooking related here. Just general effusiveness and rambling.

My apartment and I are in the honeymoon phase of our relationship, no question. I embrace the constantly chirping birds outside my windows, the galley kitchen, the mysterious absence of a coat closet. It embraces my borderline hoarder tendencies, prolific shoe and clothing collection, and unpredictable happy hour schedule. Naturally I can only hope that we never leave this stage behind. If I get to keep having afternoons like yesterday's, I'd say we've got ages before the post-closing glow fades (especially since I haven't actually closed yet). 

You see, I spent yesterday afternoon surrounded by sun, beer, a baguette, and a book on the roof deck of my new building. The temperature was perfect, the roof was deserted, and I got to look at nearly a 360 degree view of the city, including a glimmer of the Washington Monument in the distance. 

(my roof view, borrowed from the listing)

Maybe this doesn't sound so exciting to you? I don't know, it's probably nothing special. I've just never had a roof deck before, and outdoor space is appealing when your life is confined to 850 square feet. Humor me.

Just when I thought I couldn't be more content, watching the beginnings of the sunset from the roof, my friend called me from a few blocks away and invited me to an impromptu happy hour with some of her high school friends. In ten minutes flat, I went from solitary relaxation to bustling happy hour socializing. And then, when we'd all had enough, it was only another ten minute walk (down a charming, row-house lined, leafy street) home. Not only would such spontaneous get-togethers be impossible when I lived at my old place, but it'd also take me about an hour (sometimes more) to get home from most places in the city.  

All of this to say that I'm enamored with my new set up. I'm sure I'll have my moments of panic about the weighty commitment of buying a place. And I'm sure the first time the sink leaks or the oven goes on the fritz, I'll be a basket case. But for right now, I walk around on a little cloud, feeling like everything is just as it should be. No, it's even better than it should be. For the first time in too long, I'm just plain excited about things again.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

buttery birthday dinner

The new LKTC, previewed yesterday, is pretty much the only room in "the nest" (aka my new apartment) that isn't going to undergo any changes any time soon. I don't love the cabinet colors, the layout, or the flooring, but I'm young and poor, and the honest truth is that the kitchen is 100% livable as it is, so I can afford to wait. Actually I have to wait so I can afford to spruce it up. Semantics.

Anyways, much to my surprise, as we were moving in and unpacking, everything fit! That cabinet above the sink is fairly deep, and really long, so it held all my plates, bowls, cups, mugs, and some stemless wine and champagne glasses. The floor to ceiling cabinets that you can't see in the LKTC photos are on the right by the fridge and on the left hand wall, and they magically contain all my pots, pans, baking dishes, tupperware, cloth grocery bags, various small appliances, spices, and food. Even Fiona fits in there nicely, but Kitty the Kitchenaid Stripper is just too large and in charge, so she lives towards the back of my weird green counter. 

So although I was extremely pleased at how well everything fit in cabinets, I worried that cooking/baking would prove to be a challenge given the drastically reduced counter space in the nest. Let's do a little comparison, shall we? Here's the most recent Arlington-based LKTC: 

There's easily 4 or 5 times the counter space here...

And here's the new LKTC again:

...than here!
And yes, I did actually intend to show you the new LKTC in this state of hot mess total disaster-ness. In my old kitchen, I could afford to do more meticulous, organized, well-spaced out preparations for various components of a meal. This one, however, is an entirely different animal, and I quickly had to relinquish my more type-A tendencies in favor of just using all available surfaces in rotating fashion as I tried to turn out dinner and a birthday-worthy dessert. 

Actually I also had to relinquish said tendencies in the gathering of supplies for the first Monday dinner in the nest. I love my new neighborhood, and the proximity of a grocery store to my apartment building, but it's a tiny one, and doesn't even stock beer or wine, or, apparently, corn flakes, all of which I needed, forcing me to bounce around the area sourcing supplies. 

Of course none of this would have happened if I hadn't gotten my mind so set on a handful of ideas. The first thing I knew I just had to try was cake in a can. As in cake baked IN a can. Why? you ask. Well...why not? Actually, the real answer is "because 1) two people don't need to eat an entire full sized cake, 2) I don't own cake pans, and 3) I saw it on this blog and was intrigued."

The original Ladies' Home Journal article suggests using boxed cake mix, which I was totally on board with...until I remembered that I recently saved a handful of cake/frosting recipes I'd been dying to try. One of which was a chocolate stout cake with vanilla bean frosting. And Sophie likes Guinness. And I'm generally averse to boxed baked goods. And...well, you can see how that one spiraled out of control, right? But of course the grocery didn't have beer or wine, so I was off to the liquor store. Where they only sell giant bottles of Guinness. Which was fine, because halfway in to this cake baking/frosting making/chicken cooking adventure, I needed a few sips of the stuff to get me through, and to help me forget that the tiny cake (+ half a dozen cupcakes) and the frosting contained two sticks of butter!!). In case you're curious, here are a few snapshots (of the can cake, not of my drinking straight from a large bottle of Guinness. I have some standards...).     

I used a 24-oz can of crushed tomatoes, the contents of which went straight in to my freezer for later use.

The fresh-out-of-the-oven product, which kind of looks like a giant cupcake, and which I tried to frost when it was just a touch too warm.
Which led to this kind of drippy icing phenomenon (I mean, it does contain a stick of butter...)

Dripping icing aside, we each ate two slices of the stuff. It was, as you  may've guessed, quickly deemed a success. I brought the cupcakes in the next day, and they got similarly rave reviews, although I do think this is a cake best eaten fairly soon after its made, as both the cupcakes and the leftover cake dried out a bit in the fridge. 

Anyways, after the can cake (and its siblings, the overflow cupcakes) were baking away in the oven, I gave Kitty the Kitchenaid stripper a rest and turned my attention to the main dish of the evening: pecan crusted chicken. Don't ask me where that idea came from (for once, the answer is not "Pinterest," "a blog," or the "dinner tonight" subscription). But again, once it was in my little head, it was stuck. And I thought to myself "I have pecans at home, so all I need is the milk and the corn flakes."

Turns out I had no pecans at home, and the grocery didn't sell corn flakes. The nearby 7-11 came to the rescue with their travel sized boxes of cereal, but I never did procure pecans. I had already bounced around my block enough to pick up the Guinness, the corn flakes, and the rest of the ingredients, and I needed to start cooking if we had any hope of eating before bedtime. Sophie was already bringing bagged salad, wine, and sponges (don't ask), so I didn't want to ask her to pick up anything else. Almonds would have to do, I decided. 

And then I realized I had forgotten to buy the dried cranberries for the salad. At that point, I decided to completely depart from the recipe, which, oddly, came from Good Morning America, and was written in extremely cheesy fashion. Since I'd already replaced pecans with almonds and nixed the cranberries all together, I felt no guilt about baking the chicken strips versus pan frying them. We were, after all, about to consume a tiny dessert made with two sticks of butter! and needed no more fat in our lives. Sophie and I agreed, though, that it came out just fine, and tasted pretty fantastic with the dressing whipped up from the same GMA recipe.

pecan-turned-almond crusted chicken
I officially deem the first meal cooked in the new LKTC a success. It's one of many "firsts" that I'm loving far more than any normal person would. First thunderstorm, first time using my tee tiny dishwasher, first take out dinner, you get the idea. If all goes as planned, the first brunch will happen this weekend before my friends and I embark on a tour of all the embassies having open houses on Saturday. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

nostalgia wednesdays: bread

There was this phase when we had not one, but two bread machines in the family. We had one at our house, and there was also one at the OBKB Lodge in Georgia. I can't remember when exactly this was, but I remember it fondly as the time before I worried about things like boys, wrinkles, and mortgages.

For a while there, we were making fresh, homemade bread pretty often, if for no other reason than to test out the various recipes that came in the little booklet with the machine. I think we made everything from sandwich bread to pizza dough to cinnamon rolls with that thing. I don't remember much about the mechanics of the operation, but I do remember the drool-inducing scent of the bread as it was baking away in the little white machine.

I've made rosemary olive oil bread a handful of times, and foccacia bread once, but the scent just isn't quite the same for some reason. But a couple Sundays ago, in my worry-propelled flurry of activity, I made whole wheat bread in an attempt to put something on my pantry shelves that would feed me until the move. Almost as soon as it started baking, the smell immediately transported me back to the bread machine days. 

The recipe was super-simple to make, and everything happened in the bowl of my Kitchenaid, which is good, because Kitty the Kitchenaid Stripper was feeling neglected after Fiona got all the love when I made toasted almond gelato for (F)easter dinner a couple weeks ago. 

The bread comes out on the denser side, it is whole wheat + flax after all, but it's been perfect for snacking, and for healthy(ish) breakfasts. I had been subsisting on pastries and granola bars during the busy cycle at work, so yes, I consider wheat bread healthy(ish). And at least for me, the nostalgia factor is totally worth the hour or two time commitment on a rainy Sunday. 

Oh and yes, I still have so much to tell you about my new place, which I've started thinking of as "the nest" given its strategic position amongst several courtyard trees, making my nosiest neighbors a whole slew of chirping birds. But for now, there's work to do, so I'll leave you with a preview of the new, DC-based Little Kitchen That Could, which is, in fact, the littlest kitchen to date. I might be the only one, but I'm pretty excited about the adventures to come, in and outside the kitchen...


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"we can pack dirt"

For someone whose family has moved roughly six times (so far), I'm horribly averse to the whole ordeal, especially because all of my Arlington moves thus far were within the same building, rendering packing unnecessary. Thankfully my mom swept in to town last Tuesday, and helped me pack up my life. In the event you haven't met me, or haven't set foot in my many apartments, I have a lot of stuff. Not quite hoarders level or anything, but let's just say no shelf or closet goes unused in my life.

So while I grew annoyed/weary/frustrated at the seemingly multiplying possessions in my old Arlington apartment, Mom was an indefatigable force of bubble wrap, packing paper, and organization. In a day and a half span, we managed to box up everything in my life, including a planter that had, you guessed it, dirt, still in it, stopping pretty much only for food, more supplies, and sleep. Then, Friday morning, three guys from "Two Guys and a Truck" (yes, I was also confused by the math there) showed up, and spirited away every last thing (save for my clothes). 

Even though turning over full control of my possessions to strangers was stressful, the fact that my parents and I barely had to lift a finger thanks to the movers was easily the best decision we made throughout the entire move. Even when some jerk parked in the "emergency no parking zone" in front of my DC apartment, partially blocking the moving truck's access to the loading dock, I barely flinched. I just called to have him towed, and carried on pointing out where I wanted my various pieces of furniture to go. 

By lunch time Friday, the movers were gone, and Mom, Dad, and I were left with dozens of boxes to unpack, pictures to hang, walls to paint, and decisions to make. Several trips to the local True Value hardware were involved, and the weekend was a flurry of little projects and closet/pantry/shelving logistics. I sitll don't technically own the apartment, but that's another story for another post, because I'm still exhausted by the whole adventure. I now have internet in my life again, so expect prolific posts with before and after photos and the like. For now, though, here is my move in photos, mostly captured by my Mom, who is a closet paparazzi-corps member.     

This literally isn't even the half of it...
Basement staging area

Leaving the old apartment behind
Unloading at the new apartment
Mom had plenty of time to capture this moment, given my herculean struggle with the 100 year old lock
Weary from the move (and still ignorant to the fact that all the boards my Dad is holding are the wrong size)

Trip #3 to True Value
I love having a neighborhood hardware store  (and dry cleaner, and liquor store, and grocery, and...)
Celebratory "we survived!" prosecco