Favorite things, February 2017:
- The new season of the podcast You Must Remember This is finally out and it’s SO GOOD. This season profiles famous blonde actresses in classic Hollywood that died tragic deaths, and it’s dark and scandalous and delicious. Also, Karina Longworth’s voice makes me want to put on my finest housedress and sit next to a crackling fire drinking whiskey on the rocks.
- I’ve mentioned it on Instagram before, but I’ve been getting in the habit of making a big pot of vegetable stock every so often. I save up my scraps from the week in the freezer (carrot tops, the ends of onions, parmesan and lemon rinds, any vegetable that looks like it’s near its end), throw them in a pot, cover it all with water and let it simmer away for a few hours. If it needs a kick I’ll add some Marmite, and I usually throw in some peppercorns and fennel seeds, too. Basically, the stock contains whatever I have on hand at the time. I freeze whatever I don’t use in a few days, and it’s great to have around for weeknight dinners. (Yesterday I made a stock with a lot of veg and FOUR parmesan rinds that I had in my freezer. It was so rich—I highly recommend.)
One of my favorite flavor combinations in the world is chocolate and raspberry. Growing up, I spent my summers eating chocolate-raspberry Handel’s ice cream cones with my brothers in the scorching Midwestern heat, lips stained from the dark chocolate; for my birthday each year, Betsy would make me the most decadent chocolate cake with ganache and raspberry jam. It’s a pairing that reminds me of the people I love.
Last year for Valentine’s Day, I made funfetti mini cakes and tried to pretend that I wasn’t thousands of miles away from my valentine person. While I’m not particularly attached to the holiday, I do appreciate any reason to celebrate, and the one person I wanted to celebrate with was across the sea! Consuming spoonfuls of strawberry frosting helped, but it was hard. Long distance, y’all. It’s rough.
One of my favorite parts of our holiday in Australia was our road trip up the coast to Byron Bay, mostly because of all the amazing beachside cafés we stopped at along the way. Every town we drove through had its own version of an effortlessly cool, laidback, brunch-y coffee shop, and I couldn’t get enough of them. I loved the rustic, fresh-from-the-kiln tableware. I loved the kitschy collectible antique spoons. I loved the meticulously poured flat whites (seriously, can you get a bad coffee in Australia? I think not).
But what struck me most was the simplicity of the menus at these cafés. They all relied on the same healthy-ish breakfast staples: yogurt and granola bowls, poached eggs and sourdough, avocado toast—but they each managed to add original twists to their dishes. One café added avocado slices to a bountiful bowl of yogurt, passionfruit, and granola, a combination that satisfied my sweet tooth and my craving for healthy fats in an unexpected way. Another plopped a generous scoop of coconut ice cream on top of a stack of pancakes and fruit (I REPEAT: ice cream on pancakes!!!). I was in paradise.
After three solid weeks of long-awaited bliss, I’m back from Australia. I promise I’ll give you all of the details of our adventures later (with pictures!), but for now just believe me when I say that Australia is a glorious haven of food and sunshine.
Before I get into anything Australia-related, I feel the need to write a little post about something that’s been tugging at me lately. A few days ago, during one of my endless scrolling sessions, one of those short-and-sweet baking tutorial videos popped up in my Facebook feed. You know, the kind that’s shot from overhead and set to a catchy tune, with perfectly manicured hands adding each ingredient to the mixing bowl and producing a beautiful baked good in 15 seconds flat?
I’ll admit, I’m usually a sucker for those videos. Often I find them entertaining and sometimes I’m even able to draw inspiration from their recipes. But this video—well, it IRKED me, and I haven’t been able to get it off my mind.
The video showed a recipe for “healthy” brownies—with “healthy” featured prominently in the title and throughout the video. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I watched it and found that the brownies contained nearly a full cup of sugar and a cup of chocolate chips. Like, wut? It seemed that replacing the butter with oil in the batter and sprinkling some fruit and nuts on top was enough to make these brownies “healthy.” I wanted to reach into that video and (gently, lovingly) smack some sense into the people who made it.
French toast is, for me, the ultimate weekend breakfast. There are two reasons for this:
- The intense nostalgia that French toast makes me feel, since my mom would only make it on weekends, and
- The intense food coma that I experience after eating it (usually some recovery time is involved).
Both of these facts make it certain that French toast is a dish that is not meant for weekday consumption. It’s supposed to be eaten on a lazy Sunday morning, with the promise of a mid-morning nap on the horizon.
When I was little, French toast was my all-time favorite breakfast food, and my mom (whom I affectionately refer to as Betsy) was the ONLY person who knew how to make it right. With coffee brewing and Meet the Press on in the background, Betsy would whip up an eggy batter, soak some bread in it, and fry away. This part sounds standard—it’s what comes next that always blew my mind.