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.
Grilled cheese sandwiches are a guilty pleasure of mine. When I lived on Capitol Hill, if Mindy and I both happened to come home sometime after midnight on the same night, you’d probably catch us drowsily eating at our kitchen table together — quesadilla in Mindy’s hands, and a grilled cheese in mine. Sharing the frying pan and teddy bear spatula was always an option (the bear spatula is no longer manufactured, but this is my favorite spatula for flipping and cutting sandwiches).
Making grilled cheese sandwiches between midnight and 4 AM has its advantages: simplicity, extra butter, and no regrets. Making grilled cheese sandwiches at brunch also has its advantages: ability to use a knife without ending up in the ER, healthier choices, and sometimes, less cheese all over the kitchen counter.
It’s no secret that goat cheese is hands-down my favorite cheese. This does not explain why I’ve never made a grilled cheese sandwich with goat cheese before.
Perhaps it was because I was raised on an upscale classic: sourdough bread instead of white bread, and sharp cheddar instead of American. Light margarine or butter on both sides of both slices of bread.
With that, you really can’t go wrong. But we try to be creative. This grilled cheese remix is a great option for a refreshing lunch on a hot summer day. And who doesn’t love the crunch of a fresh cucumber?
Lots of photos in this post today… I couldn’t stop clicking. Cucumbers are just so pretty.
Cucumber Goat Cheese Grilled Cheese(makes two sandwiches)
2 slices of whole wheat sourdough bread (or 4 halved slices, if the boule is large)
1 small package plain goat cheese — leave this out for an hour or so to reach room temperature
2 Japanese cucumbers, in 1/8-inch slices
Heat a cast iron skillet (don’t have one? this is a great affordable option you will not regret) and over the stove — first at high heat to get the pan very hot, but then reduce the flame all the way to low. We like the slow-cooked grilled cheese sandwiches.
Using a pastry brush, lightly coat each side of each slice of bread. Spread a healthy layer of goat cheese on the bottom slice, and then arrange your cucumber slices on top of the goat cheese. Carefully place the first half of your sandwich on the skillet, and sprinkle with salt and pepper, if you like.
Then, spread a thin layer of goat cheese on the next slice. Place this slice on top of the first one, and let it sit on the stove for about five minutes — make sure your heat is LOW. Use a spatula to lift the bottom slice — if it’s nice and golden, go ahead and flip your sandwich. Let that side sit for four to five minutes. When the second side is just as golden, go ahead and remove the sandwich from the pan. Repeat for sandwich number two, and serve with remaining cucumber slices, if you haven’t been munching on them already.
I’ve been writing a lot about work for the past year. Rightfully so, as my work life has consumed about 60 hours of my week for the past 18 months.
The past few months have been quite the whirlwind: I applied and got into my first choice graduate program, turned in my two-weeks’ notice, and then was offered a full-time job as a digital Multimedia Editor. Within just a matter of a week or so, I made the decision to flip my career plan. In all actuality, I was able to skip the whole graduate school step (for the time being, anyway). You can see a little bit about me and my new job here.
My 60 hour weeks haven’t ended, as I still maintain a good amount of freelance work – the remnants of how I overcompensated for not being able to actually be a designer while working my former job. But I can finally say that I’m happy with the direction my career is going in. And that means that you’ll get to read about things other than the less than ideal life outlook that comes with being frustrated for the better half of your day.
I distinctly remember my first career-related conversation with my dad, which took place at least fifteen years ago. I was working on some school art project – I want to say I was attempting to draw people running. He demonstrated some simple illustration techniques that made him brilliant beyond the average ten-year old’s belief. He showed me how to start with stick figures where a person’s bones would be, and to draw their muscles around the figures. He told me that being artistic runs in our family, and that when he was younger, he wanted to be an artist.
When I asked him why he didn’t work as an artist, he told me that not everyone can do exactly what they want to do. Art is fun, but it doesn’t make any money. So he went to college, got a job in business, and learned to love what he did.
The topic came up again when I was getting ready for college. I was really into graphic design, and even went to some art school open houses, but the same type of conversation happened again. I majored in International Development and Arabic.
And you know what? I don’t hate that I did. Sure, I went to college, studied something that I loved, and eventually decided that the career path wasn’t for me. It’s a common thing: to give up your hobbies, and to dedicate your life to something that you may or may not be passionate about. After all, many people are struggling simply to have a job. One by one, we count our blessings, and aspire for the non-physical things we do not yet have.
For the past year and a half, I was going through some serious self-doubt. I wasn’t depressed as much as I was frustrated with everything around me. Frustrated, because I knew exactly what my problems were, and no matter how hard I tried to fix them, nothing was quite working out.
I started perusing the creative job market one year ago. Twenty-three interviews, two portfolio redesigns, two job offers, and one graduate-school-withdrawal-letter later, I feel like a completely different person.
I’ll be honest. If I wasn’t as unhappy as I was with my options a year ago, I probably never would have gotten my shit together as a designer. This was also no secret to my office, which didn’t help solve my immediate problems, but in turn, helped me reassess what I wanted to do with my life. When I hated the job before my last job, I was willing to take any job – any ::breathe:: job – just to get out. When I decided to leave my most recent job, I knew exactly what I was looking for. For the first time in my life, I was looking for a good match, and not just an escape.
And when I thought all hope was lost, I found myself with a job that is the opposite of what normally sends me running for the door. I work long hours on a team of experts. They love implementing new ideas even more than they love ideas themselves.
What I learned was something that I’ve already known for longer than I can actually remember: luck is nothing without hard work and preparation. That might take weeks, or years. But if it’s worth it, you can make it happen.
As my friend Lauren said, shortly after we sprinted for a New York subway train, narrowly struggling our backpacks through the closing doors: You gotta want it.
Ladies and gentlemen – since this post follows a long and winding road of hard work and patience, I present you with the perfect grilled cheese.
Oh, also – I went to Mexico. I’ll save that for another day’s treat.
The Perfect Grilled Cheese
The perfect grilled cheese is all about the quality of your ingredients, and all about the patience you have. Good bread, good cheese, real butter, and the satisfaction in knowing that the perfect sandwich is well worth the wait.
Amazing sourdough bread, sliced
Unsalted butter, room temperature
Good, sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese
Heat a medium- to large-sized skillet over a high flame for a few minutes, until the pan is hot. You should be able to only hold your hand over the pan for a few seconds before pulling away. Once you’re there, turn the heat down to low. A good grilled cheese sandwich is all about the slow cook. If you’re working on an electric stove, I’d keep the heat as low as 2 or 3.
Lightly butter both sides of each slice of bread. In all honesty, I’ve found that frozen bread works really well for grilled cheese. It even makes it easier for spreading the butter, and usually leaves for a nice, crisp sandwich. But I’ve also never had issues with normal bread.
Assemble your sandwich directly on the skillet. Bread, then generous amounts of cheese, and then bread again.
Do not flip more than once. You can flip when the cheese has melted so much so that it pulls away from the top slice when you lift it. The low heat is important here, because a higher flame will burn your bread.
Each side takes about five minutes, I’d say. The result should be golden brown slices of bread with cheese that melts into each slice from the inside.