Trouble With Toast

It’s the Final Countdown

March 28, 2008

With less than two months remaining in DC (I’m moving back to Atlanta at the end of May), I recently began formulating “the list.”  You know, the comprehensive accounting of everything you want to do/see before you hit the road.

I actually have two lists–one is the sightseeing-focused list, and it includes things like paddleboating in the Tidal Basin, visiting Arlington Cemetery, touring the National Cathedral, and taking a nice, leisurely walk up Embassy Row.  The other list, however, centers on DC food-related experiences.

I’m very lucky to have eaten at some of DC’s finest and most beloved restaurants–Minibar, Taberna del Alabardero, Vidalia, Rasika, Central, Proof, and Corduroy have already been checked off my list, and I’m heading to Ray’s the Steaks on Saturday.  I’ve done Ben’s Chili Bowl and 2 Amy’s.  I’ve had Salvadoran in Columbia Heights and Ethiopian in Shaw.  I’ve enjoyed many an impromptu meal at farmstands around Eastern Market and Dupont Circle.  I’ve hit up Colorado Kitchen and Dino and Sushi Taro and Matchbox.  And, of course, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve drunkenly eaten (and dropped, sadly) Jumbo Slice at 2 AM in Adams Morgan.

So, it’s been a good run, but now I need your help to remind me what’s left to conquer of the DC culinary scene!  The places that jump out at me are CityZen, Komi, Makoto, Tosca, BlackSalt, and Palena.  Due to the price tags, I clearly won’t be able to eat everywhere I’d like–but you can help me narrow the list down and get it to a more reasonable and realistic place.

Looking forward to hearing everyone’s feedback!


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Recipe: Chocolate-Mint Bars

March 25, 2008

Here’s the recipe for the delish (and light!) dessert I prepared for the food blogger potluck. Be careful not to overcook the bottom layer, or the bars will be dry. Also, it helps to REALLY let each layer cool and set before moving on to the next–especially if you’re concerned about a uniform aesthetic (which, when it comes to chocolate, I’m definitely not). I found this one in Cooking Light magazine.

Bottom layer:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 (16-ounce) can chocolate syrup
  • Cooking spray

Mint layer:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons fat-free milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 drops green food coloring


  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350.

To prepare bottom layer, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and salt; stir with a whisk. Combine granulated sugar, egg substitute, 1/4 cup melted butter, 2 tablespoons water, vanilla, eggs, and chocolate syrup in a medium bowl; stir until smooth. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture, stirring until blended. Pour batter into a 13 x 9 baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 23-25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out almost clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.To prepare mint layer, combine powdered sugar, 1/4 cup melted butter, and next 3 ingredients (through food coloring) in a medium bowl; beat until smooth. Spread mint mixture over cooled cake.

To prepare the glaze, combine the chocolate chips and 3 tablespoons butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for one minute or until melted, stirring after 30 seconds. Let stand 2 minutes. Spread chocolate mixture evenly over top. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.


I need your support!

March 23, 2008
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Okay, I try really hard to keep this blog focused on food.  However, since it reaches a pretty decent-sized audience, sometimes I must use my powers for good and occasionally divert from the culinary to the philanthropic.  Hope you don’t mind!

In May, I’ll be participating in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer for the second time.  It’s an amazing event, and I’m so proud to be a part of it–but I don’t get to walk unless I raise a minimum of $1,800.  That’s a hefty chunk of change, but I did it last year (actually, I raised over $2,200), and I know I can do it again this year.  With your help!

On Tuesday, my supporters and I are heading to Virginia (as much as I’d like to have EVERY event in DC, I do acknowledge that there are folks who live on the other side of the river) to drink and be merry for this important cause.  Here are the details: we’ll be at Gua-Rapo, 2039 Wilson Blvd (closest Metro is Court House), from 6-10 PM on the 25th. The usual Gua-Rapo happy hour is from 5-7 PM, but they’re doing two extra things for us–if you donate (a $10 contribution is suggested), happy hour specials will be extended till 10 PM.  Also, three drinks–mojitos, sangria, and Miller Lite drafts–will be increased by $1 after 7 PM, and that extra money will be given to us at the end of the night.

If you have any questions, please let me know.  I hope to see all of you there–and definitely feel free to bring friends!  If you can’t come and would like to donate anyway, this link will take you to my online fundraising HQ.

Thanks so much for your help!  And now back to regularly scheduled, delicious programming…

Recipe: Make-Ahead Chicken with Tomatoes and Thyme

March 21, 2008

As much as it pains the foodie in me, I have been known to turn to Let’s Dish to provide easy, fast, pre-made entrees that I can just pop in an oven or skillet when I’m feeling lazy. However, that simplicity comes with a pretty hefty price tag, and it also requires me to rent a Zipcar and head out to the ‘burbs. Bummer.

So, when I saw a recipe in Real Simple magazine for this make-ahead meal, I was really excited. Would it be easy, tasty, and affordable? Yes, yes, and yes!


  • 1 lemon
    28-ounce can diced tomatoes
    8 sprigs thyme
    1 tablespoon capers
    4 small chicken thighs
    4 small chicken drumsticks
    Kosher salt and pepper
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    4 1-quart resealable plastic freezer bags

To freeze: Slice the lemon into rounds. In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes and their liquid, lemon, thyme, and capers. Divide them among the 4 plastic freezer bags. Season the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add 1 leg and 1 thigh to each bag. Freeze, for up to 3 months, until ready to cook

To cook: Heat oven to 400° F. Remove the bags of chicken and tomatoes from the freezer (you’ll need 1 bag of chicken and tomatoes for each serving). Empty the contents of each bag into a baking dish. Drizzle with the oil, using 1 1/2 teaspoons for each serving. Roast until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through, about 50 minutes.


Recipe: Sausage and Peppers with Crispy Polenta

March 19, 2008
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This is a great, easy recipe that actually tastes even better when you let it sit overnight. It came from Real Simple magazine, and the hardest part about it was finding the polenta (hint: at the P Street Whole Foods, it’s in a cookie-dough-esque roll/tube on the lowest shelf of one of the ethnic food aisles–I practically had to sit on the floor to see it)! Definitely spring for the crusty bread to soak up all of the juices–yum!

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 pound Italian sausage (I used half sweet and half spicy)
  • 2 medium onions, cut into wedges
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 small red bell peppers, seeded and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 1 pound store-bought cooked polenta, sliced into thick rounds
  • Crusty bread (optional)

Heat oven to 400° F.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning once, until it starts to brown, 5 minutes. Add the onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes. Add the bell peppers and garlic and cook until they are just soft, about 4 minutes. Stir in the wine and thyme.


Transfer the skillet to oven. Roast until the sausage is cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Heat the remaining oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the polenta in batches, turning once, until golden brown.


Place the polenta on a platter. Spoon the sausage, vegetables, and pan juices over the top. Serve with the crusty bread, if desired.


DC Food Blogger Potluck–the first of many!

March 19, 2008

Well, it’s official–the first-ever DC food blogger potluck was a huge success! It was so nice to combine the social aspect of blogging with tons of great grub. Seriously, these people can COOK!

My lovely, charming, hilarious, and ab-fab co-host–none other than Miss Lemmonex–has already posted a wonderful recap (complete with full attendee list), so I won’t waste too much time gushing over how amazing it was. I will say, however, that I was totally blown away by the diversity of the folks AND the food. I was also really impressed by how the conversation transitioned seamlessly from the virtues of Le Creuset cookware (I totally would have made off with Food Rockz Man’s awesome Dutch oven if I wasn’t so full, fat, and slow) to our various careers to the benefits of blogging non-anonymously to getting married just to register for new kitchen stuff.

But on to the pictures! Here are some of the delicious dishes we enjoyed…


My very own chocolate mint bars–they’re actually light! A recipe will be forthcoming.


EatFoo(d)’s tasty and creative pork belly plating (with carbonated oranges, homemade biscuits, cinnamon crumble, and raisin-yogurt sauce).


Kitchen Tango’s awesome chocolate cake–it’s gorgeous cut AND uncut!


Jacob’s ridiculous bar setup–the drinks were really inventive and tasted great.


Lemmonex’s Irish soda bread–carby goodness!


Spork and Knife’s beautiful amaretto cake. Somehow, I didn’t get a piece of this. D’oh!


DC Food Blog’s homemade shrimp and vegetarian dumplings–incredibly addictive.

Now that we’ve made “teh Interwebs” jealous of our foodie prowess, all I can say is–I cannot WAIT for the next event! Thanks again to everyone for coming out and for bringing their culinary A-games. Hooray DC food bloggers!

Shamrockfest: not for the injury-prone

March 17, 2008

Before I get to the insurmountable task of recapping the AMAZING food blogger potluck, I feel that I must comment on Saturday’s goings-on. I have to admit, I had heard such wonderful things about last year’s Shamrockfest that I was practically expecting winged angels to feed me beer-flavored ambrosia whilst fanning my glistening brow (while soothing Celtic music played in the background, of course). That didn’t so much happen.

Instead, I drank a lot of beer (seriously, lost count after about 8), ate a stadium dog faster than I have ever eaten anything in my life, and ended up spraining my left ankle. Other than that last little faux pas (which has placed me in crutches, due to the fact that said ankle is swollen and bruised beyond recognition), the day was a TON of fun. The event was a little unorganized, and the beer lines were incredibly long in the beginning (and we were in the VIP area, so we weren’t expecting that), but the weather was phenomenal and I think I speak for my entire crew when I say that we were all happy to be there together, reveling in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day.

Anyone have any good, non-scandalous Shamrockfest stories to share? I’d certainly be interested to hear about the non-hot-dog food offerings.

“Irish I Was Drunk”*

March 14, 2008

* Actual shirt worn by MANY runners at last weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day 8K. Sheesh.

Despite my partial Irish heritage (my grandmother’s maiden name is Halligan), I’ve never gotten really jazzed about St. Patrick’s Day. One year I went to Savannah, GA, with some buddies–they go ALL out down there, making it the second-largest celebration in the country, after Chicago (I think). Other than that, the holiday usually passes without me noticing.

This year, however, will be different. In addition to eating Irish Beef Stew at Sunday’s Food Blogger Potluck (yay about that, by the way), I will be spending tomorrow at Shamrockfest. My friends who went last year said it was a really good time, so I’m definitely looking forward to it. I just hope the Irish part of my liver decides to show up.

Have a great weekend, and Happy St. Patty’s, everyone!

Recipe: Smoky Corn Chowder

March 13, 2008

Fresh, canned, or frozen, I really like corn. Of course, it’s at its best in the summertime, when you can buy delicious just-picked ears, shuck them yourself, and serve them up boiled with salt, pepper, and a little butter.

I also love corn in soup, so it’s somewhat odd that I’ve never previously attempted corn chowder. This version came from Real Simple magazine, and it is yum yum yummy. The smoky, salty bacon balanced the sweet corn and the near-caramelized onions. Even though my blender was being persnickety and didn’t puree as well as I would have liked, the flavor of the soup made up for any textural mishaps. And it was great the next day, which is always a plus in my book. I’ll definitely make this recipe again.

  • 8 ounces sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I splurged for Black Forest thick-cut, and it was well worth the extra cash)
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped (I used red)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 10-ounce packages frozen corn
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

Cook the bacon in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Spoon off and discard all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings and return the pot to medium heat. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, and red pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the corn, broth, and half-and-half and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Transfer half the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Return to the pot, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and stir to combine.

Divide the soup among individual bowls and top with the scallions and reserved bacon.


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Recipe: Turkey and Roasted Red Pepper Meatloaf

March 13, 2008
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When I was a kid, I looooooved my mom’s meatloaf. A traditional beef version, it was covered in bacon and usually smothered in ketchup. A true American classic! Unfortunately, my dad was NOT a fan, so we didn’t get this tasty treat very often.

I was in the mood for meatloaf the other day, but I wanted a healthier, more modern take on my mom’s version. Real Simple magazine provided the recipe (which I modified slightly), and it was REALLY good–just the right amount of spice, and SO moist. I actually put it under the broiler at the end of the bake time, just to give it a good crunchy crust on top. Leftovers were excellent, too (I recomment briefly reheating in the microwave and then broiling until firm and browned).

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
    1 small yellow onion, chopped
    1/2 cup bread crumbs
    1 egg, beaten
    1 cup grated Parmesan (actually, I used pecorino romano)
    2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons mustard (I used spicy)
    1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
    1 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    Kosher salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400° F. Combine the turkey, onion, bread crumbs, egg, Parmesan, 2 tablespoons of the mustard, the parsley, red peppers, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Press the meat into an 8-inch loaf pan.Bake until no trace of pink remains (internal temperature should be 165° F), about 45 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 15 minutes before slicing.


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