Wednesday, August 7, 2013

beyond trader joe's

I blame two things for the fact that I rarely cook from a recipe now: 1) the heat wave, which makes cooking in my tiny  kitchen practically a death sentence, and 2) the discovery of all sorts of "short cut" food at Trader Joe's. I've gotten spoiled over the summer, because SS has had time to go to TJ's at off hours, thereby being able to browse freely and avoid the checkout lines that often (no joke) wrap around the entire store. And while my main purchases at TJ's tend to be the $4 La Finca wine or the $5 bubbly, SS has delved beyond the booze section, and come away with amazing things like pre-marinated curry chicken and frozen fried rice. So, when it's 98 degrees outside, and we're both tired, it's a lot more appealing to fall back on those options than to try something new that requires prep work and time in front of an open flame in a 3' x 8' room.

But, with a slight respite from the crazy temperatures, and a desire to enjoy the fruits of my rampant recipe-Pinning spree a few weeks ago, I insisted that we try this bistro steak with red wine sauce recipe.  

(photo from recipe)

I somehow managed to totally overcook our steaks, and start the sauce too late, making us wait on that to finish before we could eat. Despite those snafus, I really enjoyed the sauce. The only thing I'd potentially do differently next time is cut down on the shallot quantity, potentially by half. There were just too many in the sauce, and it was kind of distracting. 

By the way, in the interest of making your lives easier, I'm going to start copying the recipes into the posts (at least when I remember), in addition to adding them to the LKTC-tested recipes page. So, here goes...

Bistro Steak with Red Wine Sauce (Cooking Light)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 (8-ounce) top sirloin steaks, trimmed
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup full-bodied red wine (such as cabernet sauvignon)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted beef stock
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  1. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Sprinkle steaks evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add steaks to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove steaks from pan. Let stand 5 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add shallots and thyme to pan; sauté 1 minute or until lightly browned. Add wine; cook 2 1/2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Add stock; cook 3 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half and mixture is slightly thickened. Remove pan from heat. Add remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, butter, and mustard; stir with a whisk.
  3. Cut steak across the grain into thin slices; serve with sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

conference room cred

On my way into work yesterday, I grabbed not one, but two, vanilla-frosted donuts (my favorite flavor since childhood). It is possibly the worst thing I can think of (in the realm of diet) to have a donut shop right by the metro. That delicious smell wafting at you before you even walk in the building is practically impossible to resist, especially when you're starving and sleep deprived. 

Anyways, as I was inhaling the donuts, I apparently got icing on my face. Which no one told me. Of course this was right before I went in to a meeting full of people twice my age and triple my importance. I don't think it did much for my conference room cred, although it does explain why everyone watched with intent when I spoke.

The messy breakfast did as little for my expanding girth as it did for my credibility, which is a shame, because SS and I have really been focusing on cooking healthy stuff instead of spending money eating out (which is usually synonymous with eating poorly, at least for me). But in the past week or two, I've been resisting that culinary pursuit not just because I'm a bit lazy (although I am), but also because the LKTC is sweltering in the dead of winter, so you can imagine what it feels like during a 100 degree heat wave (which we are currently in the midst of in DC). 

Luckily, this smoky Spanish-style roasted shrimp dish requires a mere 30 to 45 minutes in the oven, and you only have to dart back in to the boiling-hot kitchen twice to throw things into the pan. If you do all your (easy) prep work before you turn on the oven, you can actually emerge with a tasty, quick meal, and no need to take a pre-dinner shower. And it tastes great with cold beer, which will go a long way in helping you forget frosting-face debacles.  

Another good thing about finally cooking? Getting to use one of my beautiful birthday platters from Sophie!

Monday, July 15, 2013

keeping the flame alive

I haven't written for a while, and then last night I nearly burned down the LKTC, so I figured I'd share my stupidity with the interwebs for an afternoon laugh at my own expense. Don't feel too badly if you catch yourself laughing literally out loud--I couldn't contain my own laughter (after the fact, of course) last night. 

When I got home from work (yes, work, on a Sunday), SS and I were debating what to have for dinner. He wanted pesto pasta with a side of ground beef. I, exhausted from a day of ordering interns about, couldn't disguise my confusion over why someone would want to eat just ground beef. Because I wasn't all that hungry, and I'm the ultimate pragmatist (unless you are chewing gum noisily in my vicinity), I told him it was fine. SS, knowing the universal language of women (shout out to his three sisters for that), realized it was not, in fact, "fine," and that I wouldn't touch the ground beef. So, he gamely acquiesced to my desire to try a new meatball recipe, even though he was starving, and we didn't have all the necessary ingredients. 

photo from the recipe

In the midst of frying the meatballs, and pre-emptively congratulating myself on successfully tending to three different pans on the stove, I didn't notice that the paper plates I'd set out to drain the meatballs on were too close to one of the lit burners. At least, I didn't notice it until one of the paper towels set on top of one of the plates was suddenly covered in one corner with bright orange flames.

Being the level-headed genius that I am, of course my response was to start shouting "oh my God, oh my God," and blow on the corner of the paper towel (which meant I was also blowing in the direction of the open flame on the stove). Unsurprisingly, this didn't extinguish the rapidly spreading paper towel torch. After letting me flail briefly, SS calmly leaned in, took the paper towel out of my hand, and dropped it in the sink, which, wouldn't you know it, sits less than a foot away from the stove. I sheepishly told him "there's a fire extinguisher under the sink, just FYI." I'm not sure if I was trying to make him feel better ("look! I'm prepared for crises!") or worse ("I'm trying to distract you from the fact that I nearly burned up the kitchen!"). 

In case you're wondering, the meatballs turned out just fine, despite the excitement. I approached the recipe with some trepidation, because I didn't take the time to make my own breadcrumbs, as was suggested, nor was I totally confident that adding water to raw meat was a good strategy. But, we were pleasantly surprised at how quickly everything came together and how tender they were. And I didn't hear SS complain once about the change in the dinner plans (or the fact that I'm useless in a crisis). Then again we may have his sisters to thank for that, too.   

Thursday, June 13, 2013

a different take on throwback thursday

So, I've been on Instagram since December 2011, but have only used it regularly for the past nine months or so. Somehow, though, I didn't realize "Throwback Thursday" was a thing until, oh, I don't know, the past couple months. I don't often post old pictures, mostly because a) my sister threatened to disown me if I broadcast any more baby pics of us, and b) I'm one of the rare people who was pudgier in late high school/college than I am now. And while "chubby cheeks" was a cute nick name when I was pre-school aged, trust me when I tell you it wasn't a good look in my late teens/early twenties. 

Anyways, nostalgia is something I can clearly get behind, so, I'm going to indulge in a little throwback Thursday to something more recent, namely my birthday/trip home to NC.

When I was home, we had a cookout on the Sunday of Memorial Day. To go with the grilled steak, we made a smoky Spanish-style pan roast that I still daydream about. It was super easy to make, took no more than 40ish minutes total, and had this great spicy-sweet-smoky flavor to it. It was kind of like a twist on the classic shrimp boil, and I love me some shrimp boil. 

We followed the directions practically to the letter, except that I threw in a combination of regular olive oil and "smokin' chipotle" flavored (yes, that is a thing). Also, we couldn't find regular chorizo, and ended up using chicken chorizo, which was AMAZING. 

All of this has me sitting here it too early for lunch?

(photo from recipe)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

soviet safeway

Many of the Safeway grocery stores in DC have nicknames. The Senior Safeway is frequented by, you guessed it, the elderly set. The Social Safeway is full of young, attractive, chatty patrons. And the Safeway near my apartment is constantly packed with people, has minimal options, and is often out of many items, hence its nickname: the Soviet Safeway. 

The other night, SS and I trekked past police tape to the Soviet Safeway to get a few simple supplies for this flourless chocolate hazelnut truffle cake. Turns out the Soviet Safeway doesn't deem hazelnuts "simple," as they had NONE on their shelves. So, I had to adapt the recipe to include ground toasted almonds and almond liqueur instead of the hazelnut variety of each. 

I made a full and a half batch of the recipe so that I could make one 9" springform pan worth for a dinner party, and 3 baby-size pans for sampling purposes. I baked the larger pan for probably 20 minutes longer than the recommended time, but that is likely because I overfilled it. The baby pans took about 25 or 30 minutes. 

The almonds proved to be a bit of a pain, as I nearly burnt them while toasting them, and had some trouble grinding them up in to a fine powder. Turns out there's a really crucial moment at which finely ground nuts turn from powder to butter. I got the timing wrong on the first little batch, but managed to do better on the second two. By the way, the toasting step, I imagine, isn't necessary, but takes the whole confection to what I daresay is a transcendent level. The end result is a little gooey, and has a perfect hint of the Amaretto and toasted almonds. SS and I devoured one of the baby pans in record time, with nothing left behind to show for our baking efforts except some crumbs.   

photo from recipe!
ps-I imagine there are many ways to turn nuts in to powder. I used a coffee/spice grinder (and worked in batches), but also thought about using my mini-food processor. The original recipe's author used pre-milled hazelnuts from Bob's Red Mill. Options abounds.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

nostalgia wednesdays: washington

Can I be nostalgic about something that happened half a month ago? Ehh, I say yes.

Before I delve too unabashedly into Washington nostalgia, let me introduce an abbreviation you'll start to see more of: SS, short for "the totally awesome person I'm dating whose privacy I plan to respect in this forum." SS is much easier to say, no?  If we're friends on Facebook, you're probably rolling your eyes, because there are plenty of photos, status updates, etc, out there that are far from private. But, on Facebook I'm able to control who sees my life, and a blog is much more accessible to strangers.

SS off in the distance checking out Diablo Lake in Washington

 Anyways, SS and I flew to Seattle on a Thursday night, and spent about half of Friday exploring the city with my Venice friend E, and one of his friends (who lives in Seattle). Then, Friday afternoon, we piled in to a Zipcar and headed down some super winding roads to the small valley town of Winthrop, Washington, for a fellow Venice friend's wedding. 

As cool as Seattle was, Winthrop was on a completely different level. I barely had cell phone service there, because the town is so nestled between the Cascades. As an East Coast girl, I don't often see mountains like those. It was quiet, beautiful, peaceful, friendly, breath-taking...

Methow River in Winthrop, WA

E was the perfect road trip buddy, as he knew the long, curvy route from Seattle to Winthrop quite well, and could advise us on all the best places in the valley to visit, as well as all the "must eat here" shops.  And, he didn't bat an eye when I, as chief co-navigator, declared that I was dangerously close to throwing up, and had to close my eyes for the duration of the (curvy) drive.

SS and E bonding over their love of Mush Puppies (a local bakery special)

The wedding was unlike any I've ever been to, with its ranch setting, and attendees in everything from dresses to cowboy boots and jeans. Everyone, especially the bride and groom, seemed beyond happy, and the dancing lasted a solid eight hours after the ceremony. 

wedding instruments

bridal party arriving via horse-drawn carriage
I'm so happy that we made the trip, despite that little fear of flying issue! I miss the quiet, friendly town with its amazing local food, especially since the frenetic pace of DC is really wearing on me right now. In fact, today I walked, full speed ahead, in to an intersection that had the green light for cars, because I was in that much of a hurry to get to the metro. That sort of thing doesn't happen in Winthrop, and not just because they don't have traffic lights. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

good things come in threes

This year's birthday was the birthday of cupcakes. In less than one week's time, I made (and sampled) three different batches, which probably explains why my favorite black work skirt is now inappropriately tight.

For my rooftop birthday happy hour with DC friends, I tried the devil's food recipe on the side of the Pillsbury cake flour box. I cut it in half, and it made about 2 dozen cupcakes, most of which we devoured during the festivities. I think we consumed about that much champagne, too. Details. 


I really love that my building a) has a roof and b) that the aforementioned roof has a little tiki bar. It was put to great use during brunchiversary, but it was also perfect for a birthday celebration. We may or may not have ignored the "no open flame" policy to light that little candle you see. See: champagne consumed. 

Anyways, the Pillsbury recipe was super easy, and produced amazingly chocolately, rich, moist cupcakes that I would totally make again.

Which, for some reason, I did not do when Mom and I decided to make two types of cupcakes for a Memorial Day/birthday cookout at home in NC. Instead I tried Martha Stewart's recipe. Unsurprisingly, hers was more complicated. Surprisingly, it wasn't as good. They weren't inedible or anything, they just weren't nearly as rich and moist.

While home, I also made Magnolia Bakery's vanilla cupcakes (amazing how much more you can experiment when you aren't the one forking over the $$ for ingredients. Also, living in fear of under-supplying food is a family trait, and Mom definitely convinced me we needed dozens of cupcakes for 10 people).

Anyways, I think I overfilled the muffin liners when I was baking the Magnolia cupcakes, because the tops were all flat and quasi-stuck to the pan and resembled sugar cookies, not perfectly domed cupcakes. They tasted pretty amazing, though. 

We also had s'mores in the outdoor fireplace, because it was uncharacteristically chilly at night my first few days home. And, I pretty much never need a reason to eat a s'more (evidenced by the fact that I routinely toast marshmallows using the open flame of my gas stove here in DC). 

I'd like to think my baked-goods gluttony has come to an end, especially since the skirt not fitting this morning was pretty traumatizing, but, just last night, I tried a flour-less chocolate cake recipe that pretty much promises to make all my clothes fit tightly for the foreseeable future.

Worth it?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


photo from recipe

I got more my than my blue eyes from my dad. I also inherited his frugality (love you, dad). This is how I found myself getting routine highlights and hair cuts at a beauty school when my regular DC stylist went on leave and had her first baby. Nothing particularly tragic has happened yet (knock on wood), but there have been more than a few nervous afternoons spent thinking "has this person ever done highlights before? is my hair going to fall out?" as I've sat in one of the hundreds of chairs at the DC Aveda Institute. Most recently, the woman asked me somewhat nervously "so, have you ever been platinum before?" 

Spoiler alert: I'm now a bit platinum. 

And so is the inside of this amazing cream cheese pound cake. Yes, that's the best I could do to segue to something cooking-related. Go with it.

In all seriousness, this pound cake is delicious (and platinum). It's super light, with just a hint of cream cheese tang, and is perfect both by itself as a sneaky snack or as the host for a mess of berries and whipped cream. Unfortunately I couldn't make it for my own mother this past Sunday, but I was able to make it for another special mother, who very much enjoyed it. She didn't happen to own an electric mixer, so we all took turns beating the cream cheese, butter, and sugar together by hand, and it still tasted light and perfect. 

FYI, I halved the recipe, and ended up with one regular loaf, although the original recipe advocates for making both, and freezing one. Apparently it's even better out of the freezer, which is an excellent reason to try the recipe again, I think...  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


First of all, let me say I thought I had officially earned my status as a pseudo-Southern woman when I made buttermilk biscuits successfully for the first time ("pseudo" tacked on there because I was raised in the south, but by a family of Michiganders...which makes things very confusing). I realized I was mistaken when, this past Sunday, I announced "I think my apartment is going to smell like bacon for weeks," and found myself looking up how to store an ungodly quantity of bacon grease. Adding to my weird south/north hybrid heritage, this landmark moment occurred in DC. Whatever, I'm sure this will make for a good job interview story some day, some how. If the hiring manager likes bacon. Anyways.

My apartment is currently emanating this eau de swine because of the brunchiversary I hosted Sunday to celebrate my first year of DC residency and home ownership. Because I now own an apartment that I'd rather like to not get evicted from (and because the party kicked off at 1pm), I figured I best serve my guests food and celebratory cocktails. So, with the help of a few lovely friends, I whipped up quantities of food never before seen by my poor stove. We turned out 30 eggs, 2 packs of bacon, 4 packages of sausage, 4 packages of breakfast potatoes, 2 dozen cream cheese biscuits, and a giant coffee cake to supplement the delicious guac and chips another friend brought. We put away an equally impressive/horrifying quantity of champagne, beer, and sangria, but I'm happy to report no one lit the roof on fire, got in a brawl, or did anything else that might jeopardize my co-op membership. Thanks gang!

In fact, other than the lobster-esque sunburn I managed to get on my shoulders, the entire shindig was a huge success. I'm so grateful to everyone who stopped by to help me celebrate, and I can't help but feel super nostalgic for how great life has been since I made the big move last year. I never would have thought I could be so lucky, and I can't wait to see what the next year will bring!

Friday, April 26, 2013

painless biscuits

Listen, I don't really remember the last time I cooked something new, or something at all for that matter. I'm so confused about what day it is, that the barista at Starbucks today asked me how my weekend was and I answered with "it was great, how was yours?" before like eight people in the immediate vicinity worriedly reminded me that it was Friday, not Monday. Wednesday night after class, I ate Spongebob Squarepants easy mac for the love of God! In my bed! See?!

But, I did bake. Oh friends, did I bake. I'm hosting a brunchiversary soon, in which lots of friends will gather on my roof deck, eat tons of brunch food, drink mimosas, and help me celebrate a year of DC residency and home ownership (sorry if I've already mentioned it, see: confused about day of week issue above). Being slightly insane, I've decided all of this brunch food needs to be homemade, and that biscuits should have a prominent role in the buffet line-up. You'd be similarly concerned about providing adequate carbs if you were planning on buying a case of champagne for a midday shindig. 

Anyways, serendipitously, in an attempt to procrastinate from, well, I don't even remember what at this point, I stumbled upon a recipe for cream cheese biscuits. I know, I know, I'm with you...cream cheese? In biscuits? Ew. How does that even work?

I have no idea, people, but I'm here to tell you IT WORKS. You put cream cheese, softened butter, and self-rising flour in a food processor (a mini one, if you, like me, happen to have a petite kitchen). A few whirls of the blade, and you have dough, which gets chilled twice. That whole chilling the dough business is honestly the most complicated part (unless, like me, you decide to cut the recipe in 1/4, and then the most complicated part is deciphering what 1/4 of 2/3 of a cup of butter is). 

I'm used to suffering for biscuits. I'm talking practically freeze the pats butter, cut it in painstakingly with a pastry cutter, pray it doesn't get to warm, barely mix in the buttermilk, don't over-knead the dough, pray you get fluffy layers suffering. 

This recipe, on the other hand, is so easy that it feels wrong. But the first bite you take of one of the perfectly tiny, round, fluffy, little cream cheese biscuits will convince you that this just might be the only biscuit recipe you need. Unless you like to suffer. In which case, see the LKTC-tested recipe page for a buttermilk biscuit recipe. I'll lend you my pastry cutter.   

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

moving through jello

Working weekends will do good things for your bank account, but bad things for your sense of time, or so I've learned in my 1+ year(s) working on a weird schedule of, essentially, 2 slow months and 1 really crazy, 10 to 12 hour day, 7 days a week, consider sleeping at the office month. Today, for example, in my head, is something along the lines of Thursday or Friday. Which would be disappointing, since it's Wednesday and all, but I have to work all of the upcoming weekend anyways, so I suppose it doesn't really matter, right? 

The only thing that helped me remember that it is, in fact, Wednesday, was that I had to go to class tonight. I was pretty worn out prior to a 2 hour lecture about Northeast Asia and the Islamic world, read in monotonous staccato from a powerpoint, no less, but now I'm pretty much sleep-typing. It feels kind of like I'm moving through jello, which hopefully explains why it kind of feels like I knocked back a pre-flight Xanax, followed by a few shots of espresso, follow by a glass or two of wine. 

Speaking of wine, I'm sitting here drinking a glass of it, even though I should have gone straight to bed when I got home from the aforementioned lecture. But I find that if I go straight from bed to work to bed, it just augments that time warp business, and I'm enough of an airhead during the busy months as it is. I'm also trying, in vain thus far, to solve the mystery of why part of 16th Street is shut down, and, in seemingly related events, a police helicopter has been circling the Logan Circle area for over an hour now. 

Soon, though, I hope to be sleeping like a baby, pretty much just like this old picture (one of my all-time favorites). I'll also settle for sleeping like my Dad, who looks like he's down for the count, too. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


What happened yesterday in Boston has really disturbed me on a level I'm unfamiliar with, which I find especially perplexing given that I was living in London when their transportation system was attacked in 2005. You'd think having been physically present in London would naturally have made that event more impactful for me, but Boston has left me far more shaken.

Maybe it's that I was younger at the time, and knew I was going home to small town North Carolina a few weeks after the attack. Maybe my sense of vulnerability has only become more prominent as I've gotten older and become more aware of heinous things, and the circle of people I love (and couldn't live without) has expanded. Maybe it's because I now call a relatively big city home.

All I really know is that my heart is heavy for everyone who was there yesterday and/or who has felt the tragedy weigh on them in some way or another, and that everything I was worrying about before yesterday afternoon seems so trivial.

As I forced myself to turn off CNN and stop reading the news last night, my mind went back to something I read after the equally senseless and disturbing Newtown tragedy. It is something Fred Rogers once said: 

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

I am so thankful for the helpers. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

nostalgia wednesdays: an ode to warm weather

After a cruelly prolonged winter in DC, the weather suddenly zoomed from the mid 50s to the mid 80s, making me daydream of bathing suit weather and lake weekends. It was also the perfect weather to go visit the finally peaking cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin. Naturally basically every other DC resident and visitor had the same idea, but we still managed to take a few requisite bloom snapshots and carved out some space for a picnic of subs, chips, and covert mini bottles of wine poured into Starbucks paper cups (which, I suspect, made the aforementioned crowds far more bearable). 

After the picnic, on my walk home from the metro, I kind of fell in love with my neighborhood all over again. I don't think I've lost sight of how great it is or anything, but there was just something different about last night. Thanks to patio heaters, the outdoor dining scene here never really completely shuts down during the winter, but last night was really the first time all the local restaurants' sidewalk tables were jam-packed since winter set in. Everyone seemed more raucous and spirited (even the dogs seemed more excited about life), like they knew spring is here to stay, and haven't yet thought about the soon-to-arrive oppressive humidity and return to sub-par window AC units. Instead, they were just reveling in the warmth with an infectious enthusiasm that is much needed as I head in to a stressful 3 week span. 

I'm looking forward to wrapping up my current grad school class and the latest quarterly report to Congress, and penciling in some time of my own to join the patio revelers and to pick out a new bathing suit or two (that won't be nearly as fashionable as my one-year-old self's version, I'm sure) and hit the lake or beach. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

an excuse to eat and drink beer simultaneously

I'll be the first to admit that this post's title isn't exactly oozing class. Eat and drink beer all at once? I can see noses turning up at the idea. But, bear with me here, especially if you're a lazy and/or cheap cook, you like beer, it's kind of chilly out, and/or you like eating meals that can be prepared in one pan and consumed in one bowl. I happen to be all of the above, in addition to a PBR aficionado (look, my taste in beer knows basically no bounds, people). 

So, this recipe from a very, very old weight watchers cookbook has been in heavy rotation since the dark days of living at home while job searching, and cooking basically every night for my parents (dark days because I was nearly 23 at the time, not because my parents are lame). Prior to my stint as stay-at-home daughter and errands girl extraordinaire, I basically never cooked, so, I had to start simple. 

It doesn't get much simpler than this: the sausage (unless you go the fancy uncooked andouille route) is pre-cooked, the potatoes come pre-cut in a bag, and all you have to cut is the onion (unless you buy the diced potatoes with onions already included, in which case I just helped you eliminate the only semi-complicated part of this dish). You saute the pre-cooked sausage, you saute the potatoes a bit, then you pour beer and chicken broth in there, let the whole thing simmer, and bam, hearty, smokey, delicious, beer-y dinner in 20 minutes give or take. It's also highly adaptable, and tastes great with things like bell peppers thrown in there. Plus, you get to drink the leftover beer. Win, win, WIN.   

Monday, April 8, 2013


Don't ask me why exactly, but it seems oddly appropriate that one of my first post-hiatus recipe recaps is basically about how I totally failed at recreating something seemingly simple. Probably a sign that Sunday is a night for either takeout or frozen pizza, and not something as ambitious as meatballs, especially when the ground beef is frozen solid, it's already 6pm, and you have two hungry, grumpy boys waiting to be fed. 

But of course I thought to myself I've been cooking up a storm lately. Meatballs? From a recipe that I've made before? Child's play. 

So off to a very crowded Harris Teeter I went with one of the aforementioned grumpsters (whom I love dearly, and who would also admit that he was grumpy, so I'm not exactly telling tales out of school here). We foraged for supplies. He talked me out of taking the time to make sauce from scratch. We braved the epic lines. I did my best to whip up dozens of meatballs in record speed. 

We ended up eating this: 

Do you see any meatballs? No, you do not. See, this overly confident girl got a little too frenzied in the kitchen (and some red wine on an empty stomach may also be to blame), and didn't fully braise the meatballs before they cooked in the store-bought sauce (note that I'm still shuddering at my lack of homemade sauce). So instead of being appropriately firm, the meatballs fell apart the minute you so much as touched them. Instead of trying to salvage them, I crushed them all up, and we had meat sauce instead of meatballs.

However, I can still wholeheartedly recommend this recipe, including the whole "make your own sauce" bit, because I whipped it up on Election Night back in November for sustenance as we watched the results trickle in.  I even forgot to add the egg to the meatball mixture that time, and they held up fine. So, follow the instructions and braise those babies. If you do, you'll get something much more like this: 

Note: grumpy, hungry boys, I learned, will eat either in mere seconds. So don't worry if you're as impatient and screw-up prone as me. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

hi again

Hi again, friends, family, and random folk. It’s been a while, nearly seven months, to be specific. I’m honestly not even sure if anyone stops by here any longer. But this was never about page view statistics or (pardon me while I try to contain my laughter) making money. It was just  a way for me to remember what I’d been up to, in the kitchen and outside of it. And since one of my (paltry few) New Year’s resolutions was to write more, I’m back. So what have you missed during my hiatus?

Click here to see what I’ve been cooking. It will come as no surprise, I’m sure, to those who know me well, but the list is pretty saccharinely dessert-heavy.

Click here to see what I’ve done to my apartment since I moved in last April.

Click here to see what I’ve been up to outside of the kitchen.

in the lktc

Here goes a long list of pictures and links to what I've been cooking lately in the LKTC.

Allrecipe's buttermilk pancakes

Bon Appetit's cocoa brownies
(photo from recipe)

(photo from recipe)

Smitten Kitchen's snickerdoodles
(photo from recipe)

A Cup of Jo's caramel apple pie

Smitten Kitchen's apple cider caramels

(photo from recipe)'s curried corn soup

Big Girl Small Kitchen's crispy roasted potatoes

Cooking Light's pot roast

Cooking Light's balsamic green beans

Cooking Light's spice rubbed flank steak

(photo from recipe)

(photo from recipe)

Cooking Light's Thai style stir fry

Cooking Light's sesame pork rice

Slender Kitchen's "Weight Watchers" Sesame Chicken
(photo from recipe)

And plenty of old faves (bolognese, mac and cheese, paella, lava cakes, salted caramel frosted dark chocolate cake...). 

The “LKTC-tested recipes” page has been updated accordingly, so strap on your aprons, people. 

ps--If it seems like I'm hitting Cooking Light pretty hard, it's because most of my recipes lately have come from their "Dinner Tonight" email service. It's a life saver!

life lately

Let’s see, we’ll try to keep this short and sweet, but seven months is a lot of ground to cover….

My breakfast potato addiction has been replaced with an addiction to homemade poptarts from Ted's Bulletin. Seriously I eat at least two a week. It's bad, people. I also still subsist (small-child style) mostly on Cheerios, Teddy Grahams, and Quaker granola bars. So there you go, you're up to date! 

Wait, that's not enough of a description of seven months? Ok, maybe you're right. I'll keep going. 

Apparently that old adage that how you start a year is how you’ll end it is somewhat true, at least for me. After ringing in NYE 2012 with the stomach flu, and discovering over the summer that I have a heart murmur, 2012 continued to be a vexing health year for reasons that are both complicated and boring, and thus not really worth discussing here, but played a huge part in why I wasn’t feeling at all like myself in September, and ultimately decided to take a writing hiatus. 

I’m beyond thrilled to report that I rang in 2013 in a much happier way, and that one of my resolutions is to pay closer attention to my health so that things (hopefully) don’t get quite so out of hand again.

Other post-September adventures include the completion of grad school class #2 (Islamic Legal Theory, if you’re interested) while taking on a quasi-new role at work (same team, new responsibilities) and starting grad school class #3 (Northeast Asia and the Islamic World). Non work/study time mostly involved apartment tinkering, cooking, eating out, and generally being social. So essentially nothing has changed! 

EXCEPT, I flew (home to North Carolina for my mom's birthday) completely sans drugs. If you know me at all, you know what a huge role my increasing fear of flying has played in my life over the past five years, much to my chagrin. Getting on a plane period, not to mention without any relaxing prescription drugs, is something I consider a huge accomplishment. I'll be flying to Seattle in May for a good friend's wedding, so that will be the next test. I'm itching to get back to Europe some time soon, but not until I successfully complete, at a minimum, a transcontinental flight.  

That's pretty broad and brief, but I’ll end the Christmas-card sounding spiel, especially since we’re probably facebook friends, meaning you have access to the something like 1000 photos out there on the interwebs of me, and know pretty much exactly what has transpired since last September.

updates to the nest

Here are the pre-move-in photos:

Here are the in-progress shots:

And here's what the nest looks like now! 

sunnier colors in the bathroom

custom little bench and painted table from Eastern Market

new dresser, mirror, and wall decor

new fluffy rug, painted the giant cabinet, moved the desk (the walls don't seem so vast and bare until i see pictures like this!)

new desk/above-the-desk decor

new bedspread and above-the-bed decor

finally added curtains to the bedroom window

vintage seed packet photos added to the kitchen

a favorite Venice picture added above the sofa

a map of the US with the route of my road trip sewn on to it

The entry way and living room have definitely changed the least, with the kitchen coming in a close second, but I've changed a few things here and there as the snapshots show. I can't believe I've called this apartment home for nearly a year. I still love it just as much, if not more, than when I first moved in, and I can't believe how much my life has changed for the better since I took the huge leap in to the world of home ownership and life in the District proper!