French Onion Grilled Cheese

French Onion Grilled Cheese

French Onion Grilled Cheese

In the past few months, I’ve found myself in a few situations where I’m surrounded by kids.

The first instance was back in January, when Kristen asked me to give a presentation at her students’ career day. That was an absolute blast — I was unbelievably nervous, but I brought a ton of freebies from the Department of Energy (lunch bags, bookmarks, the whole shebang) and I even attended the 8th graders’ English class with them. They’re reading Lord of the Flies. Does that bring back memories?

French Onion Grilled Cheese

There have been a few instances in my own office building that have called for a last-minute chat with kids about career options. Today, I got to chat with two groups of high school students from a technical high school in DC about working in STEM — and how you don’t have to be a scientist or an engineer to work in STEM. I make art. High-functioning, scientific and useful art.

Design is a lovely thing.

French Onion Grilled Cheese

And tomorrow, I’m starting a mentorship program with a high school student. Tomorrow, well, tomorrow is my birthday. I can’t think of a better way to spend it.

Thanks for letting me share these moments with you. And to accompany the flashbacks all this talk of teenagers might have spurred, enjoy this grown-up grilled cheese sandwich (also on the cheeseboard sent to me by Rochelle from yesterday’s post).

Hope your humpday is moving along quickly.

French Onion Grilled Cheese

French Onion Grilled Cheese, inspired by the adorable Joy the Baker

Four slices of a good, firm sourdough bread (I keep softer sourdough in the freezer, which also works)
2 or 3 medium-sized yellow onions, sliced
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded or sliced gruyere cheese
A few sage leaves, sliced
Butter. Mmm… buddah.
Salt & pepper to taste

Well, grilled cheese, we meet again. Let’s take it up a notch.

I can’t go through sourdough bread fast enough (thanks for nothing, diet), so if I have it in the house, I keep it in the freezer. I recommend that tactic, because I actually like grilled cheese sandwiches made from frozen bread better. Something about the temperature and the way the cheese melts into it.

ANYWAY. Heat a skillet on high until the pan is hot — so hot that you can only hold your hand over it for about 4 or 5 seconds before recoiling. Then, turn the heat down to medium. Add your sliced onions, and drizzle with a bit of butter. Stir constantly. After the onions turn translucent, the edges will start to brown — this should take about 5 to 7 minutes. When burnt bits start to collect at the bottom, pour in your 1/4 cup of heavy cream (yes, we are caramelizing onions in heavy cream). Season with salt, pepper and sage. Keep stirring, and cook over medium-high heat until the onions actually turn to a caramel color. This should take another 15 minutes or so. Longer if you want them really caramelized.

Scrape the bottom of the skillet, and transfer the onions to a bowl. Reduce your heat to low. Butter both sides of each slice of bread, and shred or slice your gruyere. Place one slice of bread on the skillet, then layer it with cheese, then pile on the caramelized onions, and then top with another slice of bread. Make sure your heat is on low — you want a slow cook.

I gave them about 7 minutes per side, which gave the sandwich just the right color and melted the cheese into the holes of the sourdough bread.

It’s a favorite of mine.

Marscapone Pound Cake with Whipped Cream and Balsamic Strawberries

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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.  Continue reading “Marscapone Pound Cake with Whipped Cream and Balsamic Strawberries”