One of the first things people usually learn about me is that I love food. I love talking about food, thinking about food, shopping for food, looking at pictures of food, and, most of all, eating food. Trying new restaurants, new cuisines, new recipes…I enjoy every moment of it. Maybe I got this love from my Grandma (see previous post) because I certainly did not get it from my parents (sorry, guys). They are both wonderful cooks, but don’t enjoy the hands-on element of cooking, the hours spent in the kitchen, like I do. The funny thing is that if you were to tell them–or really any of my friends who knew me before the age of 21–of my baking drawer that holds six different kinds of flour they would laugh and say, “Really? Her? The girl who was scared to boil water? The girl who couldn’t make toast without burning it?” Yeah, I don’t know what happened either. To be fair, my work isn’t beautiful by any means. Something usually goes wrong every time and I still don’t have that fundamental understanding of how food works yet (you know, the people who can magically throw together beautiful recipes with whatever fixins they have laying around, who know what spices work together, who know the mechanics behind every ingredient). Maybe one day I’ll get there, but for now I am going to simply keep enjoying food as a way to feed my body and soul, nourish those around me, make memories with friends, and create.
My camera has recently become a bit wonky and I’ve been too busy/hungry/distracted to take and edit pictures of my food. So instead, to accompany this list of recipes I’ve made recently, are the stories behind them.
Nut Bread: I don’t remember where I first found a link to this super healthy bread, but it was the first thing I made in D.C. The stress of unpacking, navigating the rush of city life after such a slow summer, and mentally preparing for work was getting to me….so I retreated to my tiny kitchen. This “bread” (I use quotations because its more of a chewy collection of seeds than a soft, fluffy bread) is completely wholesome, but all nutritional value is probably depleted when smothered in biscoff (aka: crack spread) that has been an all too frequent occupant in our baking cupboard. Speaking of…
Pumpkin Biscoff Cookies: I needed to use up the last of the biscoff because the longer it sits there, the easier it is for me to sneak into the kitchen and eat it with a spoon. My roommate actually found this recipe and sent it to me because of our mutual love of a) baking, b) pumpkin baked goods, and c) biscoff. I made them before going to my friend Monica’s house for a beer and boardgames night. Pumpkin and biscoff were made to be together. Combine with chewy oats and you have yourself a winning fall cookie. Another things that has become a staple in our apartment is….
Beer Bread: I found this recipe in college and made it for house dinner one night. Chantal was abroad that term, so it was just me and my boys. Each and every one of them had their mind blown by this bread (and proceeded to eat multiple slices with their individual jars of jelly). Because it made such frequent appearances in college (and it is actually THAT easy to make), I figured it was only appropriate that it become a regular here. We have made simple beer bread (bonus: put melted butter on top, it keeps it from getting dry), something more savory with feta and rosemary, and Maddie even made a loaf with pumpkin and chocolate chips. The pumpkin made the bread super dense and chewy. I loved the texture, but it isn’t the same as fluffy beer bread. We also figured you could use hard cider and make cider bread (bonus: maple syrup…very good for fall). I actually had a cider themed night with two of my workmates and we made cider bread and…
Apple Cider Fondue: Such a pleasant night at my friend Reece’s apartment. He made us specialty cider-themed cocktails (the man has a full bar) and then we feasted on cider bread, apples, and brussels sprouts dipped in this gruyere and cider fondue. Such a good night. My workmates enjoy food just as much (if not more) than I do and this was not the first time we cooked/baked together. The first time I ever baked with Molly, we made…
Pecan Cornmeal Butter Cake: We actually had to sub almond meal for cornmeal because the grocery store didn’t have cornmeal (seriously?). But it turned out fabulously. I had never browned butter before and have done so frequently since then because it adds something so special to whatever you are making. Such a rich flavor. My roommate Maddie was there and we snacked on cheese, crackers, and a lot of black bean dip while waiting for this guy to bake. And then we feasted. It was actually one of the best cakes I have ever had and I am surprised I haven’t made it since then. I do have tomorrow off (federal holidays FTW) so maybe I should do that. The other workmate I have baked with frequently is my friend Kate. She and I recently made Halloween treats for the office. She made beautiful sugar cookies that she prepared in different colored layers, such that when you layer the colors and slice triangular pieces out of the block of dough, you get little cookies that look like candy corn. My Halloween creations did not turn out that beautifully, but they tasted wonderful. I made…
Oreo ‘Pumpkin’ Cake Balls: These guys were delicious, but not quite as pretty as they are online (isn’t that always how it goes?). Turns out dipping cake balls is kinda hard and so these pumpkins were a bit deformed. BUT they were super tasty and everyone at the office appreciated the 3pm sugar rush. Kate and I have also dubbed ourselves in charge of baking for the other Junior Fellows’ birthdays. I tackled the first job alone as it was Kate’s birthday and made…
Banana Cake: This isn’t the first time I’ve made this cake (see: here) and it was just as good the second time around. This time I even classed it up with some pearl sprinkles. I had no idea what kind of cake Kate would like because we had only been at work for a few weeks, but it went over super well. Since then we’ve tried to tailor the desserts to the person whose birthday it is, so for Matt’s birthday we made baklava and for Ola’s we made Russian tea cakes. Both of them work in the Russia-Eurasia program at Carnegie, so it seemed appropriate. Both recipes require copious amounts of butter and are therefore delicious.
One of the challenges I’ve faced this year is learning how to cook for one. While I do enjoy marathon sessions in the kitchen (typically blasting show tunes or Taylor Swift), there aren’t always enough hours in the day. And it can be frustrating to spend a lot of money and a lot of time to cook for yourself, especially if it is only for one meal. At that point, the call of cereal for dinner or chipotle become way too overwhelming. One of the things that has been working for me is making things in bulk that will last me a few days (sometimes a whole week) and are tasty enough that I won’t get sick of eating them for multiple days. Here are a few winners:
Spinach Turkey Meatballs: A serving of veggies and lean meat all in one? Yup. Plus I got to enjoy them with some of Maddie’s home-made pesto.
Roasted Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Grapes and Walnuts: Long title, easiest recipe ever. I first had brussels sprouts last year when I spent a semester in Washington (it was also when I fell in love with this city and decided I needed to come back). My roommate Liz made them and I instantly forgot why I had been avoiding them my whole life. I feel like they have a bad rep amongst vegetables as they are the stereotypical gross veggie that kids love to hate on. This was supposed to last me a few days, but I ate pretty much the entire bowl because it was so good. Unfortunately the next day I contracted my boss’ daughter’s stomach virus….so I haven’t been able to eat brussels sprouts since. Hopefully this food aversion will soon fade.
Sweet Potato Split Pea Soup with Coconut Milk: I have made this soup three times now and it never fails to disappoint. So easy and so satisfying. Especially with a big slice of beer bread for dipping.
Curried Potato Apple Soup: I made this a few weeks ago because I was in a soup mood, but it didn’t turn out that well. The broth to veggie/fruit ratio was off, so it was waterier than I wanted it to be. I made this once before several months ago with my friend Sam and it was really really good. So I’ll have to try it again soon.
A few days ago I made this ricotta blackberry cornbread. I wouldn’t have ever thought to put blackberries in cornbread, but the internet is full of crazy ideas and so I decided to make it for a cookout on Friday with some new friends. Thankfully, it was a big hit. The best way to get people to like you is to feed them delicious cornbread, right? It would work on me anyways.
Something I’ve really been enjoying lately is fall breakfasts. Breakfast is more than just a meal to me. It is the time when you can take a few moments for yourself (or share it with others!), enjoy the crispness of the early morning, slowly sip your coffee, and think about all the possibilities that await you. I guess I don’t know exactly what it is, but I just love everything about breakfast. Recently I’ve been enjoying this wintery granola, this morning apple crisp, a variety of pancakes (my favorites so far have been pumpkin spice and s’mores), and oats made with cardamom.
As much as I love cooking alone, I also love to cook with friends. In addition to the many recipes listed above that I’ve made with work mates, here are a few I’ve made with some other important people.
Apple-Cranberry Chicken: Christian and I made this the other night when I got back from Minnesota. I had spent the whole day traveling and–although it was great to see family–I was still sad from the funeral. On top of everything, I had no food in my fridge. So I wanted something simple and comforting. The first time I ever made this was for my housemates last fall when we all curled up on the couch for a movie-dinner and watched The Breakfast Club. The second time around with a bearded co-chef (who has a tendency to dance in the kitchen) was just as lovely. Aside from how easy it is to make, I have a giant jug of apple cider left over in my fridge. So this (and many other cider recipes) will have to happen again soon.
Brie Stuffed-Crust Pizza: Maddie and I made this a while ago and enjoyed it on a Saturday night on the couch watching Harry Potter. The epitome of relaxation? I think so.
And just tonight my sister (who is visiting…pictures to come!) made black bean brownies. I’ve made them before (see: here) and was a fan. They aren’t your typical fluffy brownies, but they are chocolatey and fudgey and will definitely satisfy a craving. These ones weren’t as fancy as the one I made before, but making them in a muffin tin definitely helped when it came to eating them since they are so crumbly.
Normally I tend to gravitate towards healthier recipes (case in point above). And towards simpler recipes. But lately I’ve had the strongest urge to tackle bigger kitchen feats. I want to make something beautiful, something hearty. Something that I can lose myself in, both in the arduous baking process and in the sweet moments afterwards when I can devour my creation. Top of the list is this Pear and Almond Cake with Cider Glaze, Rosemary Corn Cake, and this: Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding with Espresso Whipped Cream. Not fancy or difficult, but certainly the most decadent, sinful thing I think I have ever seen.
Sometimes I feel pretty silly blogging about food. This isn’t a “food blog”, I don’t come up with amazing culinary creations, nor do I even have a fancy camera to take delicious pictures. But, this blog is where I share stories about my life and things that inspire me and are important to me. So food is here to stay, y’all.
For those of you who have tomorrow off of work, happy three day weekend! Mine has been filled with sunshine, good food, and people close to me. What more can a girl ask for?
Truly a beautiful day in the district.