Because America’s bests holiday is right around the corner.
I’m a little rusty on the icing skills, but these will have to do.
Star-Spangled Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing, recipe after the jump. (more…)
Hi friends — so today, in addition to setting you up with a great brunch recipe, I’m here to tell you about a pretty awesome local production called the Baltimore Rock Opera Society (BROS, for short).
If you’ve been reading a while, you probably already know about my love affair with all things Baltimore… mostly because of its hip, grungy art community, and my attachment to the art school I almost went to up there. Let’s be real — my heart aches every time I get an email from MICA. But maybe… someday, I’ll go back to school for my MFA.
A close friend got involved with BROS last year, putting on some pretty amazing performances. I was lucky enough to catch a round-up performance of last year’s show at Artscape, Baltimore’s huge, amazing, humid art festival. The Natty Bo was flowing.
This year, the BROS are performing Grundlehammer — the description is here:
Gründlehämmer takes place in the land of Brotopia: a once-prosperous kingdom where the power of music can make crops grow, heal the sick, or smite an enemy. For 30 years Brotopia flourished and prospered – but a shadow has fallen across the land, cast by a tyrannical Dark King Lothario and an immortal cave-dwelling monster of unspeakable evil: the Gründle.
Something that I find particularly fascinating about the BROS is that, for the most part, every person that participates in these production, like myself and probably most of you, has a day job doing something completely different. I wouldn’t have realized this if a friend hadn’t mentioned this to me at the Artscape performance. I was pretty blown back by the talent, so I highly recommend trying to catch a show.
That being said, the BROS have teamed up with Thread Coffee in Baltimore and Yours Truly to sponsor a giveaway for two tickets to this year’s Gründlehämmer show — the tour is based in Baltimore, but they’re traveling to both Alexandria, VA, and Philly, PA for additional shows. In addition, the winner will get one bag of the BROS Blend coffee from Thread Coffee in Baltimore, MD.
Sounds great, right? There are a few ways to win — first, you MUST leave a comment below telling us which city you’d like to see the show in! Then, for extra entries, you can Tweet about the giveaway, like BROS on Facebook, or like Sweetsonian on Facebook. Each item will give you an extra entry in the giveaway. BUT — you have to do the additional pieces through Rafflecopter. If you don’t, it won’t count in the raffle! The contest ends at midnight this Friday, March 15.
Anyway, good luck! And check out the delicious BROS breakfast bake recipe below (Sweetsonian-ified, of course, for simplicity).
Recipe after the jump! (more…)
It feels like shakshuka is just all over the blogosphere these days.
Luckily for me, shakshuka is something that actually fits into my diet. Yes, I’m a food blogger on a diet. How about that?
I guess I should tell you about this diet. It’s called the Dukan Diet — well, my own rendition of it, anyway. The main idea is that you stick to a high-protein diet interspersed with vegetables. It’s pretty amazing. I don’t crave sweets very much anymore, and carbs, well, they will be missed, but I do love protein and veggies.
I say the diet is my own “rendition” because there are two food groups that I simply cannot give up: cheese and cocktails. Yes, they are food groups. I’m just gonna keep it real with you.
This diet started last winter, when I was really amping up the freelance work. So basically, when my social/fitness activities were replaced with sleepless nights and caffeine binges, I realized I needed to change something. Either give up freelance and get back into my running obsession, or change my eating habits. Obviously, I chose freelance and the diet.
Diets get such a bad rep these days. Of course, there are so many negative connotations that do go with them. But to be honest, I like having goals in mind, and guidelines on what’s good and what’s bad and what’s too much and what’s not enough. I weigh myself every day. I’m guilty when I don’t work out, or when I cheat. I cheat more often than I should, and I don’t work out as much as I should. But you know what? The guidelines work for me. I like them.
I’ve been making meatballs from a great recipe blog that archives Dukan Diet recipes — and this recipe actually reminds me a lot of the Norwegian meatballs my friend Åse (pronounced oh-sah) made for us one rainy night in Bergen.
So I made a huge batch in the oven, and used a portion of the meatballs for this shakshuka. The original intent was to use the shakshuka for lunch (it packs really well and is a perfect work lunch), but I’ve made it for a couple of dinners and it’s always been a huge hit.
The meatballs are pretty neutral, so they’d go really well in this banh mi recipe, too.
Anyway, enjoy this recipe (especially if you’re on the Sarah Gerrity Dukan protein cheese and cocktail diet). If you have favorite meatball recipes, I’d love to hear some ideas — because I tend to make these ones in double batches for the entire week (or two or three).
Onion Meatballs, from Dukan it Out
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground turkey
3 green onions,
1 small sweet onion
1/2 cup lowfat cottage cheese
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup Kraft Grated Parmesan Cheese
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the green and sweet onions in a food processor, and pulse chop until finely diced. Then, in a mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients, mixing with your hands to fully incorporate into a mixture.
Line a baking sheet with foil, spray with nonstick baking spray, and begin rolling the meat mixture into 1.5-inch balls. Space them about 1 inch apart, and then bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
Lazy Meatball Shakshuka
10-15 onion meatballs
1 jar tomato sauce of choice
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
4-6 eggs (use your judgement)
Olive oil, just a drizzle
Fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
First, heat a cast iron skillet with a drizzle of olive oil. Saute your meatballs until the surfaces are a deep golden brown. Then, carefully pour your tomato sauce into the skillet, turning the stove heat to medium-low. If it’s too chunky, add water in 1/4-cup increments until you have a stew-like consistency.
Once the tomato sauce comes to a simmer, use a wooden spoon to create some pockets between the meatballs for your eggs. Crack the eggs one by one into the sauce, and baste the whites with the spoon. Once the whites begin to cook through, sprinkle the skillet with feta and parmesan cheese. Simmer until the eggs are cooke through to the consistency you prefer — I like the yolks runny, but you might want them stiff.
Sprinkle with fresh basil, season with salt and pepper, and enjoy.
Cardamom is a spice that you don’t come across too much in American cooking. I never really knew what it was until I was 19, wide-eyed and living in Tanzania for the summer — it was the main ingredient in a selection of teas and desserts, occasionally, in one of the rice dishes we had. Thinking back, there are a lot of things I wish I could change about that trip, but mostly myself: how I viewed life, how I acted back then. I’m sure we all have those moments (days, weeks, months).
Just the taste of cardamom reminds me of how much we can change in just seven years. Back then, I was on a mission to prove my dedication to international development, and to prove to my parents that I didn’t need to listen to every piece of advice they scolded my way.
I deserved the scolding. I was an asshole back then (oh man, I hope-hope-hope I’m not nearly as much of an asshole now).
But no matter how broke I was because of that trip, I wouldn’t take it back for the world.
I lived with a handful of other volunteer teachers in a house near Bahari Beach, just outside of Dar es Salaam. There were a few women who lived in the house that also cooked for us and taught us bits and pieces of Swahili — which I used to be alright at — but honestly, the memory that sticks with me more than anything is the scent and the taste of the cardamom-infused chai tea that greeted me every morning.
They mixed the tea from scratch, and boiled water in huge vats — water that was used throughout the day for cooking, laundering, and other methods of cleaning. The tea was strained directly into a giant, baby pink thermos, and had enough tea for everyone in the house to have at least a few cups of.
Breakfast usually included a few cups of tea, lesson planning, and toast with a glass of fresh passionfruit juice. Then, I’d hop onto tht dala dala, a bus that was so packed with people that no morning was complete without a stranger sitting on your lap or crouched between the other 20 riders on a 10-person bus. After teaching elementary school in the morning and high school in the afternoon, I usually took the bus back to Bahari beach, and walked to the beach itself — not far from Rold Dahl’s house, and a separate dial-up internet cafe.
I had a typical Tanzanian school notebook that I used as a journal back then. It shouldn’t surprise you that I was a journal-writer, because, well, I write to you here as often as I can. I will say, it’s nice to have an actual reader for this type of stuff.
But after a drink or dinner at the beach cafe, I’d come back to the volunteer house and hang out with the girls and the other volunteers. I’d cross my fingers the entire walk back, hoping that there would be some tea left.
But then again, there was always beer, too.
Baking this cake filled my apartment with the scent of cardamom, which only made me drift back even further into these memories. I bought a massive box of Chai Bora before I left Tanzania — but I went through the tea ever so quickly, back in my UCSB days of daily, chilly morning Arabic classes.
They say scents spark the strongest memories, and when they do, years might have passed between the last time you even remembered the details your mind pairs with those scents.
It felt like years had passed since I smelled cardamom. The scent is comforting.
Recipe after the jump. (more…)
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.
To remove, run the mold bases under warm water.
This calls for a second post today. Holy CRAP. How did I not know this exists?! Someone buy this, stat.
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.
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
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.
I have a confession to make.
I am not a morning person. Definitely. Not. Me.
Weird, right? I know. I used to think all bakers were morning people, too. Sorry. I was wrong. I’m one of those girls that has to set an alarm at 6 AM to wake up sometime between 7:30 and 8. I really do hit the snooze button that much. It’s a problem. How am I ever going to own a bakery? (more…)
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