Entries Tagged as 'fruit'

Firecracker Popsicles

10

26.6.13

popsicles

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.

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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.

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Firecracker Popsicles { Want more July 4th recipes? Check out my Fireworks Cupcakes and my Star-Spangled Tart from previous years }

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.

To remove, run the mold bases under warm water.

Watermelon, feta, and balsamic vinegar

6

29.5.13

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Quick lunchtime update: I may or may not have just eaten a pound of watermelon for lunch.

Normally, I’m a big advocate of eating fruit as-is. But these watermelon and feta salads are just all over the internet, so we made one this weekend just to try it out.

It’s a winner. I understand why they’re everywhere now.

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Watermelon and Feta Salad — this is pretty simple.

Watermelon
Crumbled feta cheese
Arugula
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Slice your watermelon however you like it. For presentation, I thought a stacked salad would be nice. Arrange your watermelon on a heap of arugula, top with crumbled feta, salt and pepper, and then drizzle just a little bit of balsamic vinegar on the plate.

Plum and Marscapone Flatbread, Caramelized Balsamic Glaze

4

05.4.13

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This might be my favorite set of photos yet.

A couple of weekends ago, Shaeda came over to spend an entire Sunday as my sous chef. The hands you see in these photos are hers. Aren’t they pretty?

I don’t think I can ever spend an entire day cooking without a sous chef ever again. Let me know if you’re interested, because an extra set of hands (and taste buds) in the kitchen really makes my life a lot easier.

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Well, there is only one day and a handful of hours left in this old house. The movers are coming Saturday morning (or so they say…) and I’ll be picking up in an older building in an older, gayer neighborhood.

In usual Sarah-fashion, this week has been unfairly busy. One of my clients sent me their data about a week late, which threw my entire freelance calendar off, which gave me an unexpected week of freedom in exchange for a looming week of hell. Hell was this week.

But as the week winds down, I’ve found solace in pandemonium — mostly thanks to my Thursday yoga “meeting” at the Department of Energy gym. There’s something incredibly soothing about reserving one hour a week to not think about a to-do list or an annual review or a muddled mess of clients. One hour. Just sixty minutes of soothing concentration — on holding a pose, building strength, and personal growth.

At the moment, my life is in boxes. Not everything, but a good chunk of it.

At the moment, there are twelve boxes. There will probably be fifteen by this time Friday night.

But hopefully, Saturday will go smoothly, and I’ll be able to reinstate food blogger Sundays… albeit, from a new home.

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Today, I’ll keep this short. I can’t deny exhaustion, but I just had to share this recipe and my favorite photos to date. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have. Happy Friday!

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Plum and Marscapone Flatbread, Caramelized Balsamic Glaze, derived from Butter Me Up Brooklyn

Ingredients
1 package active yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup warm water (might need more)
1 teaspoon oil

2 ripe plums, sliced thinly (preferably with a mandolin)
4 to 6 oz. marscapone cheese
Cornmeal, for dusting the crust
Fresh basil, sliced

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar

 

Combine yeast, sugar, flour, salt, and water in the bowl of your stand mixer. Using the dough hook, knead on medium until the ingredients form an elastic, smooth dough. That should take about ten minutes. Once that happens, cover the dough in the olive oil, place a kitchen towel over the bowl, and let the dough sit for an hour or so.

Roll the dough out on a clean surface — I kept it to about 1/2 an inch thick. Dust with cornmeal.

Heat your oven’s broiler.

Using a spatula, spread the marscapone on the crust, covering as much as you can. Then, arranged the plum slices, and be careful to not put too much fruit in any particular area. Too much will make your flatbread soggy. With a pastry brush, lightly coat the plums in olive oil.

Broil the flatbread for about 8 minutes, until the crust is crisp. Then, crack the oven door, and switch the oven to bake at 350 degrees. Let the flatbread bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, and then remove the sheet from the oven.

In a small saucepan, combine the balsamic, honey, and sugar. Reduce over medium heat until syrupy.

Top the flatbread with sliced basil, and drizzle with the balsamic glaze.

Marscapone Pound Cake with Whipped Cream and Balsamic Strawberries

7

26.3.13

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There are a few good reasons why I let myself fall into freelance black holes.

The most obvious is, on several levels, financial. Freelancing = more money. More money = less debt, nicer things, and sometimes, slightly less anxiety. When I dedicate a weekend to freelance, I cloister myself. I seal my bedroom door and plug in my head phones, and I get. shit. done.

When I spend a Friday night freelancing, I chug water and green tea. I go to sleep only when I’m satisfied with the progress I’ve made, so my sleep is sound. I reward myself by silencing my phone and not setting an alarm. And when I wake up refreshed that Saturday morning, I sip my French press coffee while putting on make up and getting dressed.

Getting dressed and made up for a working weekend is key… because whether I spend my day designing from bed or designing from Ebenezer’s, that Saturday is a day of work. I am a creature of habit. There are certain things I need to do to prepare myself for a day of work, be it at home or at the Energy Department. And this ritual is one part physical, one part psychological.

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Freelancing, I’ve learned, is not for everyone. It’s not easy, and there are days and nights and weeks at a time where I feel myself slipping into a state of anxiety — an antsiness that transcends stir crazy.

There are times when I absolutely love it. Like when I was in Los Angeles for Christmas vacation, on the phone with Google from my parents’ dining table, sipping a cup of coffee from one hand, and scratching the floppy ears of my family’s grumpy yellow lab with the other. On days when I have only one job, when my makeshift office is cozy, and I have a dog under my arm — yes, those are the days. I envision my future exactly like that. One job, working from home, with a dog. Am I a grown-up yet?

Then, there are times when I’m an absolute crazy person. I’m overbooked, I say “yes” to too many projects, I have a full load of creative work at the Department, and friends celebrate birthdays over the course of entire weekends. Those days. Those days make me want to curl into a variation of the fetal position, preferably in my bathtub while periodically sitting up to swig Bulleit straight from the bottle.

The depressing part is that when I find myself so stressed out that the only mode of comfort is a bubble bath and a Manhattan, there usually isn’t time to calm down. Too much stress, too little time.

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But since 2013 began, I’ve been trying to take care of myself. To treat myself better. I work hard. I love my job(s). And I’ve taken a good hard look at several areas of my life. I’ve made goals and priorities. Three months ago, I wrote on this blog that 2013 would be my year. I wanted 2013 to be your year, too.

It’s quarter-end. In the same way that I review my tax information and prepare forms and files for record-keeping and for completing my civic transaction as a tax payer, looking back on the past three months has only magnified how much my life has changed. How incredibly different my life is. What a different place I’m in, and what a different person I’ve become. Hopefully, for the better.

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Mindy and I were discussing 2013. How 2013 would be is my year, and how 2013 would be is hers.

For both of us, 2012 started off in the dumps. And then, little by little, things started to change. It started with a new job, and just trickled into every aspect of our lives.

So this spring, I’m taking a look at 2013 and checking in on my goals. Take better care of yourself. Floss your teeth. Invest in skincare. Sleep in. Drink less.

Spend time with the people you care about most, and make time for those who stood by you through thick and thin. And remember where you came from, because when you needed help, someone came to the rescue. And someday, you’re going to be the rescuer.

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In the end, we are all creatures of habit. We have rituals before we go to bed, and rituals after we wake up. Those habits are not instinctive; you train yourself with repetition, and the action becomes part of your every day life, and part of your whole self. The things you say and the things you do over and over again are the things that will define who you think you are, and how the world interprets your own well-being.

Breaking bad habits is an art form in itself: unbelievably both simple and complex in nature, but not lacking in any psychological depth. If you bite your nails, sleep in your make up, or simply have issues being honest with yourself and with the people you love, break it. Do whatever it takes to break those habits — even if it means taking the babiest of baby steps. Love yourself, and make every decision a good one, if anything, out of self respect.

I’m going to say this one more time. Repeat after me: this — 2013 — is my year.

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Recipe after the jump.  (more…)

A Star-Spangled Tart

4

28.6.12

Something that I haven’t been quite honest about, reader, is that the past year or so has been some sort of limbo for me.  I know I’ve mentioned it, but I thought I’d address some things that have had a lot of impact on my writing, my cooking, and my outlook on life in general.

So much of my life is weighted upon my work – even for those of use who have workaholic tendencies (guilty as charged), what you do is your means to how you live your life: it determines what you eat, how you sleep, where you live, and how you spend the majority of your time awake as a person.  What you ultimately do for work says everything about who you are – everything, and no less.

When I first started working, my parents advised me to work for the weekends, and to savor time spent away from the office, while my peers say not to work too much or too hard.  Both options, to me, are a waste of time that you will never get back – as a single twenty-five year old, anyway.  If I had a family to support, my story might have been different.

Note to self: if you are not satisfied where you are, you should never be satisfied until there is a (non-fluorescent) light at the end of the tunnel, and you should never, never – ever – settle for anything less.

Maybe this is a generational thing. I feel like I’m surrounded by incongruencies: people saying that you can’t do anything without a graduate degree, others saying that you don’t need any sort of degree to be successful.  Some people are unhappy at their jobs, but stay for the benefits, and/or the ability to have their cake and eat it too.  Or they just complain, and stay where they are solely because they’re not working to change it.  Or, they put in the work to find satisfaction.  Those who pursue satisfaction – however long or winding the road may be – well, I hope with all my heart that they find it.

After twelve long months, I think I have a good idea of what will happen to me next.

I’m wrapping up my position at CIPE, where I was able to learn so much about what I want to do.  Next week, my family arrives, and I’ll be able to share a tiny slice of what my life has been like since I found my home here in Washington – and my Washington friends will finally meet my family, and probably do a long-awaited beer bat with my father.  I’m hoping for another Fourth-of-July Eight Clap.

After that, this American girl is going to Mexico for a week.

And after that, I’m taking the next step – so thank you, all of you who have dealt with my bitching and moaning, my neglect, and my stress.  Your unconditional support means the world to me, and I promise, I can pay you with food, friends, and long, chatty runs along the Potomac river.

Sweet, delectable food.  Happy fourth of July, America.

 

Sweet tart crust, by Smitten Kitchen

1.5 cups AP flour, plus whatever you need to make the dough workable
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg

Whipped Cream Filling

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-3 cups fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions

You’ll need two rectangular tart pans to make the American flag shape – the dough recipe gives you just enough to fill both.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a food processor, combine 1.5 cups flour, 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Pulse grind until evenly mixed.  Then, add the cubes of butter and pulse grind, slowly adding in the egg.  Pulse grind (about ten seconds each) until it won’t mix any more.  At this point, the dough was too sticky for me to work with, so I gradually added flour – about another half cup – until it was more of a pie-dough consistency.

Deb recommends chilling the dough, but I’m horribly impatient these days, and frankly, since it wasn’t required, I didn’t do it.  I rolled the dough out to about 1/4 of an inch in width, and transferred to a buttered tart pan.  I like giving tarts a nice, thick crust – the dainty crusts always fall apart on me.  I’ve given up on them.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the crust is golden to your liking.  Then, remove it from the oven, and let cool.

While that’s resting, beat your whipping cream in a stand mixer for a couple of minutes, until it looks like, well, whipped cream.  Look for stiff peaks.  As it begins to form, gradually add the sugar and vanilla extract.  Set aside in the refrigerator until your tart is ready to serve.

To prepare, use a spatula to fill the tart with whipped cream.  If you want it to be extra decadent, line the tart with a layer of fresh strawberry jam before filling with the whipped cream (that was my original intent, but I got distracted when I made this, and then forgot to do so).  Arrange your berries on top of the whipped  cream to look like a star-spangled banner, put on an American flag bikini, and share your tart with some of your best friends, American or not.

Bourbon and Chocolate Cherries

1

16.1.12

I can’t lie to you guys.  2011 was quite the blogging fail, on my part.

For the past week or so, I’ve been walking around, lounging in my house, and chatting at bars about how I needed to write something for this post.   (more…)

Mini Pound Cakes with Raspberry Whipped Cream

9

07.2.10

I know I’m from California, but I secretly love snow days — and I’ve had a thrilling blizzard-filled winter to kick of my life on the East Coast.  Washington is currently being pelted with about three feet of snow… so beautiful!  Sometimes it’s nice to have an excuse to not leave the house. 
Today, we trekked out to the Dupont Circle Snowball Fight, of course.  Imagine a massive mob of people pelting snowballs at each other — yep, that was basically it.  I left after getting hit in the back of my head with an ice ball that literally popped the pressure from my ears.  We frolicked to Kramerbooks afterwards, and then home, stopping to make snow angels and experiment with what it felt like to crawl through three feet of snow (it made sense at the time, I swear).
After arriving home, I depleted our butter supply with this pound cake recipe.  The problem was, that half way through the mixing, I realized that I didn’t have any sour cream… so I substituted with evaporated milk.  It seemed to work — my friends and roommates had some wonderful reactions, ranging from eyes rolling back into heads and recommendations on pursuing a career as a pastry chef. 
I could never do that.   You know, start charging my friends for what I love to do for free.

WHAT YOU NEED

For the pound cake:
3 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups butter softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large eggs
1 cup evaporated milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice 
For the whipped cream:
1 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup raspberry preserves

WHAT TO DO
First, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Mix thoroughly.  Then, cream the butter and the sugar in a mixing bowl, and beat in the vanilla extract and eggs, one by one, until evenly mixed.  Add the evaporated milk, and then the dry ingredients until the mixture is light and smooth.
Pour the batter into your mini bundt molds and bake for 12-15 minutes.  If you are using a regular 9×5 loaf pan, bake for 50 to 60 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the loaf.
For the whipped cream, beat the cream on high until soft peaks form, then add the extract and preserves and continue to beat on high until you have stiff peaks.
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