Disclaimer: I promised Shaeda I would wait to make this until she was in my apartment. I broke that promise. But can you blame me?
Toad-in-a-holes take me back to being a little kid, visiting my grandmother. I don’t know if you all remember this, but before the American Girl dolls were a thing, the American Girl books and paper dolls were a thing. And being the bookworm that I was, I powered through all of them. Naturally, I look most like Samantha (most is a stretch) so she was my favorite, but my grandmother, having grown up in New York during World War II with the victory gardens and all, well, her favorite was Molly.
And when I was sufficiently obsessed with the book series and the stories of all of the characters (Grandma read every single book after I powered through each one), they came out with a series of cookbooks. I can’t remember if I had every single one, but I know that I had Molly’s. And, one of the recipes we made — usually for breakfast for Grandpa — was the toad-in-a-hole. A piece of toast with a hole in it, and a fried egg right into the bread. It’s delicious.
And I’ve had this idea for a few weeks now. A toad-in-a-hole grilled cheese. It’s been making me salivate. And with all the spin classes I’ve been going to, well, I’ve been letting myself ease into some carbs. So I made this.
But I wanted it to have a kick. So I threw on some sriracha. Obviously, it would be fun to use homemade sriracha, but I haven’t been home much lately, so I haven’t made any of that this year. The classic green top worked out great.
My only regret is that, next time, I’ll add in some slices of avocado. Now that would be perfect.
Nothing makes me miss having a garden like eggplant does. Last summer, and the summer before it, I had a few eggplant seedlings that just exploded in the July heat — it was always fun to grill homegrown eggplant and squash with the roommates and friends at our summer barbecues!
Eggplant is one of my go-to dishes for dinners and work lunches — it’s relatively cheap, you can find it at every grocery story, and it makes a great pasta substitute when you’re craving lasagna, but cutting back on carbs.
I just want to start off by thanking all of you. Thank you so, so, so much for reading. In the past couple of months, I’ve received more emails and comments from you all as readers than I ever thought was possible for my little blog! I really can’t express how every single comment, every single email and every single Tweet has made me gush and blush. Words cannot express how much I love all of you right now. You make me want to write more and more.
That being said, I’m on a plane to Houston at the moment. My flight was delayed out of Washington for, like, 8 billion reasons, and I’m pretty sure my Houston-to-Los-Angeles flight took off an hour ago. I made a nice friend at the airport, and in typical airport grown-up fashion, we didn’t exchange names. We did, however, camp out on the floor in the middle of a packed terminal, chat about her two-year old son in Chicago, and commiserate about rude travelers. Thumbs up, assholes that block the gate exit when people are trying to deboard our plane. They’re almost as annoying as the tourists who try to get on a metro train before letting people out… during rush hour. I mean, come on… train etiquette is just like elevator etiquette.
But I digress.
Like always, travel gives me time to reflect on what I’m doing with my life.
Lately, I’ve discovered an involuntary urge to reconnect with a few friends that I had lost touch with over the past year or so.
It’s not such an out-of-touch concept – I’ve always focused on surrounding myself with the most amazing, inspiring people I can find (yes, friends IRL, I’m talking about you). But when you’re going through something like a job hunt, relationship transition, or whatever other significant thing might be happening in your life, sometimes you need to just be with people who understand you. So friends fall in and fall out, and you reconnect when you’re all ready.
Many of my reconnections have been because of relationship transitions. More specifically, more single ladies.
And, having been a single lady for far too long, I’ve lost touch with some concepts. I’ve been discouraged, over optimistic, really, I’ve just been all over the spectrum. I’ve been a stronghold advocate of having a healthy relationship with yourself above all else.
And guess what? I’ve been putting my marriage to my job waaaaay ahead of my relationship to myself. And even when I feel like I’m rocking all things career-related, I find myself doubting myself in almost every other relationship.
So when I was chatting up said girlfriends on recent man-related wins and woes, they introduced a pretty amazing strategy: if you feel any negativity for any reason, drop it. Immediately.
It was hard at first, because the crazy cat lady in me wanted to hold on to and overanalyze every little thing.
But this is a healthy challenge. Let go of any negativity. With all my yoga preaching, I’m ashamed I didn’t pick this up earlier.
And thus begins an amazing week with the family. I’ll be camping next week, so enjoy this cast-iron skillet recipe for white chocolate and bourbon smores.
My definition of “favorite holiday” has fluctuated over the years. As a kid, the Fourth of July was never really a big deal. It wasn’t like Christmas or a birthday — we didn’t get presents and there wasn’t any special sort of character that came to visit. I actually don’t remember many of my childhood Fourth of Julys… they were always relatively tame.
But in D.C., Fourth of July is the greatest holiday. Ever.
I remember when I was still working at the Department of Labor — there was a little yellow concessions stand right outside the main entrance, facing the Capitol Building and the National Mall. Rachel and I used to schlep outside on the hottest days (it was frigid inside because of the air conditioners) and we’d grab ice cream snacks.
Firecrackers were always my top choice. And when you’re in one of the most American places on the planet, every ice cream cart is well-stocked with Firecracker pops.
I even proactively purchased popsicle molds just so I could make my own Firecracker pops this year — I purchased these ones from Amazon – and they came with popsicle sticks. And, I prefer the classic look.
So, popsicles are pretty easy, right? You make some sort of liquid, fill the molds, and freeze overnight. Well, I tried this with coffee, and the coffee came out so rock-hard-icy that it hurt my teeth. I figured that this time, I’d run each liquid through the ice cream maker so they would soften up. WRONG. Don’t do this. Most of the pops were too soft to be pulled out in once piece.
So I’ve adjusted the instructions below to eliminate what I actually did in practice. Running the mixtures through the ice cream maker actually incorporated too much air into the mixtures, which kept them from freezing solid. Not running them through the ice cream makers should do the trick.
Strawberry Sorbet, adapted from the Joy of Baking
1/3 cup simple syrup
2.5 cups strawberries, cleaned and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons vodka
1 tablespoon Triple Sec
Blueberry Sorbet, adapted from Simply Recipes
2 cups fresh blueberries, stems removed
1/3 cup simple syrup
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch of salt
Vanilla ice cream, adapted form David Lebovitz
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole or soy milk
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons bourbon
First, assemble the vanilla ice cream mix. Combine 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Keep an eye on it, and make sure it doesn’t boil over. Heat them until you start to get a nice froth on top, and immediately remove from the stove. In a mixing bowl, combine your egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla extract.
While whisking vigorously, gradually pour about 1/4 cup of the milk and cream mixture into your egg yolks and sugar. You really cannot whisk vigorously enough — you need to temper the yolks to ensure they don’t scramble. This is how we make a custard. Continue adding the hot milk in 1/4-cup increments until it is completely mixed. Filter the custard through a fine mesh sieve, and set aside in a jar. If you’re not one to wait around, set that jar in a bath of ice and salt water to speed the cooling process up. When it’s entirely cool, stir in the bourbon.
Then, create the other sorbets. This process is pretty easy — you just take all of the ingredients and pulse grind them in a food processor until the fruit is entirely pureed. Keep the strawberry and blueberry sorbets separate, and let chill in the refrigerator until the vanilla ice cream is cold.
Assemble the popsicles. First, spoon the blueberry sorbet into your popsicle molds. I’d go with 2-4 tablespoons in each mold, depending on the mold size. Go ahead and tap the counter with the popsicle molds a few times to get any bubbles out, and set in the freezer for at least two hours.
After the first layer is frozen, repeat with the vanilla ice cream mixture — spoon a bit into each mold, and tap on the counter. Freeze for one hour.
Then, fill the popsicles to the brim with the strawberry sorbet mixture. Insert popsicle sticks into each mold, and freeze overnight.
I’ve been running around DC like a madwoman today, filming tidbits of political celebrities for work (Arne Duncan is by far my favorite secretary. Yes, he is one of only two Secretaries that I’ve actually met).
After what felt like 24 hours of explaining film shots, setting up cameras, breaking them down, and repeating the entire process, I sat down at my desk and heaved a sigh that could have continued for days.
And then I found this video on Colossal. If you’ve had a hectic day, just watch and listen. And, if you have the energy, read up on it here.
I haven’t been cooking Sweetsonian-worthy meals or desserts lately — since I’ve been so crazy freelancing, I’ve actually taken up a less indulgent pattern of eating to make up for the lack of exercise.
I’ve also been freelancing more than I thought I ever would, which leaves less time for, well, everything else. Clearly, I love love looooove what I do, so I’ve been dedicating more hours than exist in a day to my work. But, the upside is that when I blog, I won’t just be blogging about food.
Today, I gave my design portfolio a lighter, brighter face. I would absolutely love if you would take a look! And I hope you have a lovely week ahead. I’ll work on posting some recipes from photos that I’ve already taken but have yet to write about yet.
While I was in Los Angeles, I upgraded to a road bike.
I am not ashamed to admit that I fell head over heels in love with an adorable refurbished purple bike with pink drop handlebars.
I had my dad help me take it apart, box it up, and ship it to the UPS store near my house — where it is scheduled to arrive today. I’ll be putting this baby back together after work, and riding it home.
Looking back — 2010 was good to me. I’ve never been one to set new year’s resolutions, but I’ve always believed that self-improvement was a never-ending goal. And if I make a “resolution,” per se, it’s one of those “always put in one hundred percent” resolutions. Like one year, I decided to look my best every day. It wasn’t just about putting on make up or doing my hair before leaving the house, but about exercising, eating well, not drinking too much, and dressing to impress. All in all, my resolutions gear towards making good decisions.
And sure, everyone makes bad decisions every now and then. Like when my roommate ate her entire Advent Calendar in one sitting, or the time I had to opt out of a half marathon because I ran my body into the ground by running six days a week (I know, so stupid). But for the most part, this year was filled with some epic wins, and minimal fails:
Cooking about half of Christmas dinner for my family in California, thus demonstrating the cooking skills I’ve built up since moving out :)
Convincing a significant amount of people to move to DC this year. You know who you are.
And now, Sweetsonian in review — here are some of my favorite recipes, along with your favorites (thank you, Google Analytics).
Sweet Potato Fries and a Spicy Tomato Garlic Aioli. By far the most popular recipe — it got almost 8k page views a couple of days after I posted it! I have to say, it was one of my favorites, and definitely a favorite amongst my friends. I made a variation of it for my family’s Christmas dinner in California — huge hit.
Bacon Jam. I didn’t realize how obsessed the world is with bacon.
Mexican Tacos. What a fun day that was! I miss the days I spent with Silje, our Norwegian embassy exchange intern. Here’s a resolution: see Silje this year.
Almond Ice Cream. I just bought a new ice cream maker. My affinity for almond ice cream will be a primary motivator behind my half marathon.
Pizza Bianca. Also a favorite memory of mine — having my best friend visiting for July Fourth weekend in Washington.
Hey world (or the 8 people that do actually read this). I haven’t forgotten about you, I promise. I’ve gotten your facebook messages, and frankly I’m shocked that you’re tired of looking at snickerdoodles. Blasphemy! Pat would be very disappointed in you ::cough:: Diana (although I’m disappointed in his lack of phlog updates, so I guess it evens out).
I confess, cooking has not exactly been at the top of my priority list for the past couple of weeks. Work has been obscenely busy and life has been slightly roller-coaster-like lately, so I’m going to stick with that excuse for now. It’s legit, I swear. Anyway, for your entertainment, here is a picture of the wine-bottle terrarium I built in the fall, when I first moved to DC. Isn’t it pretty?
Sadly, I found a weed in my bottle garden last weekend. How in the world a weed was able to weasel its way into my wine bottle is beyond my comprehension. I thought that might strike some food for thought. At least it provides for some pretty green in the dead of winter. Anyway, once I get a spare moment in daylight to photograph some more recipes, I’ll bounce right back. Winter is killing me, slowly.