Archive | April, 2012

Coming Full Circle – Cinnamon Roll Edition

28 Apr

Ever have one of those weeks? You know, when there just aren’t enough hours in the day? And tensions start to run high? And, much like a reality TV program, things between you and your co workers stop being polite and start getting REAL?

I pulled nearly 12 hour days all week in preparation for my  work’s annual conference, which starts on Monday. My near future is bound to be exhausting.

But I have a secret weapon to boost staff morale. On Monday morning I will be rolling into work with a couple of pans of these bad boys.

Behold. The ultimate cinnamon roll, courtesy of The Pioneer Woman. (I figured it would be appropriate to pay homage one last time to my favorite ranch wife-turned food blogger since my first post celebrated her delish potato skins.)

But honestly, what better way is there to start off a long week than with a little doughy sweet goodness?

The thing about these cinnamon rolls is that they require a significant a time investment. You have to set aside enough time to let the dough rise (at least an hour). But the other thing about these cinnamon rolls is that you can easily make them ahead of time, freeze them in the pan and bake them immediately before you would like to enjoy them. (As I just did!)

The full recipe is available here: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/06/cinammon_rolls_/. Beware – it makes 40 to 50 cinnamon rolls. Honestly. If you don’t need that many cinnamon rolls in your life, please halve the recipe. (That is what I normally do.)

One last note – PW’s (really delicious) icing recipe calls for maple flavoring and coffee. If you don’t happen to have maple flavoring on hand (and who does?), I suggest using my little trick: Mix 2 cups powdered sugar with 1/4 cup milk (more if needed), a few tablespoons of melted butter, and a few tablespoons of coffee. It works wonders.

Enjoy! This is one of my all-time favorite recipes. If you would like to learn a bit more about PW and her amazing, beautiful, gorgeous ranch, check out this post: http://thepioneerwoman.com/blog/2012/04/the-cow-calf-operation/

Another guaranteed antidote to a rough week?

Meet Porkchop (sharing my Snuggie):

Have a great weekend!

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Avocados Anonymous

22 Apr

When I was in college, one of the first silly Facebook groups that I remember joining was “I could eat cereal for any meal“.

Because, honestly. That pretty much summed up my life. I was a cereal addict. And for good reason: cereal is tasty, economical, and convenient.

However, as I have gotten older, my tastes have become somewhat more refined. Cereal has been replaced by homemade guacamole as my go-to meal. Because, while guac is somewhat more labor intensive to make, much like cereal, is it perfect for any situation.

(Proof that you can really find anything on Etsy – and to clarify, I do not own these. 🙂 )

Home alone late after work and don’t know what to eat for dinner? Guacamole!
Friends coming over to watch the game? Guacamole!
Forgot to eat breakfast and need something to eat RIGHT NOW? Guacamole!

Ordering guacamole at a restaurant can be dangerous. You never know what you are going to get – sometimes it is too mushy and you might even end up (gasp) with pre-packaged guac, which shouldn’t even count as guac at all! So in my mind, it is always better to just make it for yourself.

Below is my favorite guacamole recipe of all time. Guacamole + bacon = perfect.

Bacon Guacamole

(Image and recipe adapted from ClosetCooking.com)

Ingredients
(Serves 2-3, depending on how much they love guacamole)

4 strips of bacon, crumbled
2 large avocados, mashed
1 medium tomato, seeded and finely diced
1/4 cup white onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Cook the bacon until crispy and set it aside on paper towels to drain. Crumble it up.
Mix everything.
Ta-dah!

Sadly, I have realized (but don’t understand how it can be possible) that not everyone in this world is an avocado lover. Are you a guacamole fan? Do you have your own favorite recipe?

The Great Coffee Debate

14 Apr

(Check out the full Hipster Barista collection to see where coffee and memes collide.)

Honestly, I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker until I came to D.C. Sure, back in undergrad I often found myself camped out at the local coffee shops with a latte in hand to get some homework done, but over the last few years I have definitely kicked it up a notch or two.

I have also learned that some people are ver-r-r-y passionate about their coffee selections. There are a few different camps – those who love Starbucks with all of their hearts, others who hate Starbucks with a vengeance in favor of local shops, and some who don’t really care as long as they get their caffeine NOW.

I fall somewhere in the middle. At home, I rely on my old reliable French Press filled with whatever coffee I happen to have  at the moment. Politics don’t really motivate my coffee decisions; I am an equal opportunity macchiato enthusiast. But I do have an appreciation for what my local coffee institutions bring to the table.

Below are a few stand-out purveyors of caffeine in the Capitol Hill neighborhood – do you have a favorite?

1. Starbucks

237 Pennsylvania Ave SE
http://www.yelp.com/biz/starbucks-washington

What can I say about Starbucks that you don’t already know? I consider this location to be “my” Starbucks. A couple weeks ago we ran into Eric Cantor there and he was surprisingly pleasant. If you are feeling fancy, this particular shop is one of only about 250 Starbucks stores in the whole  U.S. that has the Clover Brewing System, a specialty filter that i can honestly say makes a difference. Also: there is an upstairs with a sweet fireplace a small conference room that you can reserve for meetings, book clubs, or whatev. It is kind of a neighborhood secret, so shhh!

2. Pound Coffee

621 Pennsylvania Ave SE
http://www.poundcoffee.com/
Pound opened up a year or two ago on Pennsylvania Avenue. In terms of ambiance, it can’t be beat. The iced nutella latte (!!) is a winner. It also serves a full menu (homemade hummus is my fave) and recently started selling beer and wine. This is the place that I will go when I need to  get some work done late at night. But beware – seating goes fast during peak hours and it gets a little too crowded for my taste. This is a great spot to grab lunch or a blended coffee beverage on the  go with a friend.

3. Peregrine Espresso

660 Pennsylvania Ave SE
http://peregrineespresso.com

Peregrine has two locations – the other is on U Street. They make hands down the best latte that I have had. Be sure to order an iced vanilla latte with whole milk if you can – don’t skimp on the non-fat (trust me, it’s worth it.) The down side – there is  not much seating and the line gets long.  I recommend  visiting Peregrine during a weekend trip to Eastern Market. But be aware – the serving sizes are a lot smaller than the Grande or Venti that you may be used to. This is coffee meant to savor.

 

Peeps Take The Cake

7 Apr

Happy spring!

I will be spending Easter with my cousins and their kids (ages 15, 13, 7, 6, and 1) in Baltimore. Being the good holiday guest that I am, my first inclination was to whip up a fun, family-friendly dessert for the occasion.

Now, back home in California, the tradition is to make a quote-on-quote “bunny cake” to bring to the family Easter celebration. I have made such a cake for as long as I can remember.

To help you visualize:

However, this year, I was feeling adventurous. This year, my horizons would be broadened. This year, a new cake would be on the menu.

I give you, the Peeps (TM) Sunflower Cake.

But first, a fun fact about Peeps, the sugary little treat that some people love and others love to hate. In 1954, the “Just Born” company launched the candy line. Back them, it took 27 minutes to make a Peep. Today it takes just 6 minutes, thanks to the modern miracle of science. And faster ovens. For more Easter food trivia, check out Yum Sugar.

Recipe adapted from http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Peeps-Sunflower-Cake.

Ingredients:

1 package (18-1/4 ounces) yellow cake mix
(You could always make your cake from scratch – I love this recipe, but I have to say that there is just *something* that tastes so right about a Duncan Hines Butter Yellow cake mix.)
2 tubs chocolate frosting2 packages yellow chick Peeps
1/2 bag dark chocolate chocolate chips

Directions:

Bake cake according to package directions (about 25 minutes at 325 degrees), using two  9-inch round baking pans. Cool completely. (Please disregard the Stella in the photo below; they are a necessary part of the baking process…)

Level tops of cakes. Spread frosting between layers and over the top and sides of cake. (I added some chocolate chips to the middle layer, too!) Smooth the sides with a knife.


Without separating Peeps and curving slightly to fit, arrange chicks around edge of cake for sunflower petals.

For sunflower seeds, arrange chocolate chips in center of cake. Voila!

Happy baking! This is one of those recipes that is so simple to make but brings a definite “WOW” factor. If you do happen to suffer a baking mishap, never fear. Please make yourself acquainted with one of my favorite time-wasters er websites: cake wrecks. Honestly. It will warm your heart.

Thanks for reading!

Something Old and Something New On Capitol Hill

1 Apr

The great thing about living on Capitol Hill is that there is no shortage of food options. Today, I wanted to share a couple of my old and new favorite food establishments located in my neck of the woods.

First, meet Hunan Dynasty.

When the work days are long… and the school work just doesn’t seem to let up… and the thought of cooking is simply too exhausting to comprehend… Hunan is the first place that I call. I am not going to pretend that this is the most authentic Asian cuisine but there’s something to be said for having the option to order Chinese and sushi at the same place. It’s a one-stop-shop, if you will.

Hunan is a family-run business located at 215 Pennsylvania Ave SE. If you go inside, you will find the walls of the humbly decorated establishment covered with photos of the owners posing with the Washington’s “A List” – Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, and just about every Congressperson under the sun. But I mostly turn to Hunan for delivery. (I grew up in rural, RURAL Northern California where the closest Starbucks was at least 30 minutes away. Delivery was not an option. I have to admit that living in the city does have its perks!)

If you live near Capitol Hill and haven’t tried Hunan yet, I would suggest the sushi (California roll is just $4.50! The spider roll never disappoints!) and/or the chicken lo mein. The wantons are so-so. The portions and pricing are generous.

Now, for something ENTIRELY different, meet the new kid on the block, Sapore.

It’s the Hill’s first specialty olive oil and balsamic shop! This place is brand new – just opened on March 18. Last Saturday, I dragged my boyfriend through the rain to check out the new digs at 660 Pennsylvania Avenue SE (right next to Eastern Market). All I can say is WOW. “Sapore” means “taste” in Italian and I can honestly say it lived up to its name!

You can sample olive oils and balsamics from around the world. They bottle them for you on site. In addition to regular ol’ olive oil, flavors include meyer lemon, garlic, blood orange and much more. They have flavors I have ever heard of. Case in point: champagne infused vinegar.

I walked out of there with a bottle of Italian herb infused olive oil and a California blackberry balsamic for about $12 each. If you enjoy a good crusty bread and olive oil as much as me, I would heartily suggest you to check Sapore out. (Plus, the owner was really nice and it always feels good to support a local business.)

If you are interested in learning more about where some of that delicious olive oil comes from, follow the tweets from https://twitter.com/oliveoilfarmer in Paso Robles, CA or check out the http://www.facebook.com/lucerooliveoil Facebook page – Lucero is located in Northern California pretty close to where I grew up!

What is your guilty food pleasure? Do you have a favorite locally-owned shop in your neighborhood?