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!