Hi there. I have some news today.

I started this blog three and a half years ago. I was single, living with my parents, and wondering what to do with all the words and recipes piling up in my head. So I started this little corner of the web with a hot pink point and shoot camera and a recipe for pound cake.

It's amazing how much your life can change in just a few years, and keeping this blog has been one of my favorite ways to document and remember all those wonderful things. Meeting Justin. Getting engaged. Marriage. Buying a house. Finding out we're going to be parents. Having a baby. Starting new jobs, starting a business.

And it's that business I'd like to tell you about today. I spent this past summer putting my photography on the front burner and it's been more challenging, more rewarding, and more fun than I could've imagined. I've enjoyed meeting new people, getting out of my comfort zone, and watching God bless my efforts. He is so very good.

Somewhere between the marriage and the baby and the business, this blog got lost in the shuffle. That's not to say I didn't think about it, because I did, but when you're on Week 22 of Horrible Morning Sickness and you can't bear the thought of food, you don't cook. You don't take pictures. And you certainly don't blog. (Unless you all would've been terribly interested in what Special K looks like the second time around.) And then when Quinlan arrived, it was a wonderful, exhausting time - and given the choice between making cupcakes or taking a nap, I'm choosing the nap.

By the time things started to be normal again, coming back to this space felt a little awkward. I sat down countless times to tell you about a recipe, but I felt like I was trying to cook in someone else's kitchen. You know, when you've got a perfectly good recipe but you can't find the mixer or figure out how their oven turns on. It happened a few times.

I was starting to feel confused having two different spaces, and for those who are brave enough to read both sites, I don't want you to feel overwhelmed trying to follow multiple blogs. I started to feel like I couldn't keep up with both and I wasn't sure where to put certain things. Part of my photography business includes sharing personal posts along with my professional work, so after some careful thought and half a pan of brownies, I've made a decision: I won't be blogging here anymore. The site and links will remain active and the recipes and writing will still be here for as long as they're wanted, but I'll only be blogging on my new site from now on.

Over there, you can find weddings, recipes, engagements, families, personal musings, bits & pieces of here and there's, and some cute pictures of my kid. You are such a wonderful group of friends and I hope you will join me in this small (but much needed) change.

Come on over, I'd love to have you.

Blog | blog.brittany-thomas.com 

Website | www.brittany-thomas.com


peach blueberry cobbler.

After careful consideration, I've come to the conclusion that there must be some sort of law in our town requiring at least one farm stand for every five citizens within a ten mile radius. I know, that sounds like math. Please don't leave.

This must be true because all summer long, and especially along that long, country road that takes us to church on Sundays, they've been hanging out every couple of miles. A wooden stand boasting fat tomatoes and juicy melons. A roadside shack with cantaloupes piled three feet high. That one in particular that's harder to see from the street but if you're diligent and follow the homemade signs, you'll find a cement-floored pavilion with industrial fans blowing in the windows and cherry pies lined up on the counter, futilely attempting to cool in the scorching heat.

And it was in that last fruit stand that I found the peaches. Enormous, softball-sized, fuzzy-skinned, last of the summer peaches. I picked half a peck and a jar of local honey (for my granola addiction, you see) and went straight for the kitchen with cobbler in mind.

And if you're like me, you've got a pint or two of blueberries in the icy depths of your freezer, ready for your favorite pancakes at a moment's notice. You might want to throw this in there, too.

And if you're the type of person who loves a biscuit topping but sort of gag at the lack of texture, then this cobbler is for you. I like a biscuit with a bit of grit, a little muscle, a little extra chew than the standard sort. This one does the job. I doubled the topping recipe for maximum cornmeal biscuit coverage, and I wasn't sorry.

Not only did I double the biscuit topping, I also changed up the peach to blueberry ratio. After reading that the blueberry flavor drowned out the peaches, I knew I couldn't allow that to happen.  

Peach Blueberry Cobbler
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen & The Lee Bros.

For the fruit:
2 1/2 (about 4 cups) pounds peaches, pitted and cut into slices
1 cup blueberries
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the biscuit topping:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fine stone-ground cornmeal (yellow or white)
6 tablespoons brown sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt 6
 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss peaches with blueberries, sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt and tip the mixture into a 13x9 pan.

To make your biscuit dough, stir together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into the dry mixture with your hands, smashing and grabbing and working it all together. When the butter bits look crumbly but aren't completely incorporated, stir in the buttermilk with a spatula. The dough should be pretty sticky. Dollop large spoonfuls of the biscuit dough over the filling. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, if desired (I did).

Bake until the cobbler’s syrup is bubbly and the biscuit tops are browned, about 25-30 minutes. Let cool slightly and scoop it into bowls and serve with ice cream or freshly whipped cream. I'd be lying if I said I didn't eat this for breakfast the next morning.


homemade iced coffee.

I don't know about where you live, but here, it's freaking hot. So hot that I can't stomach turning the coffee pot on at 6 a.m. no matter how exhausted I am, much less for a post-dinner brew. I feel like a jerk even offering coffee to dinner guests at 8 p.m. on a summer Tuesday night, like I want them to sweat it out on my back porch over a slice of cake.
Now I had to tell you that to tell you this - I'm all about frozen caffeine. I'll do the cliche Starbucks thing and order a caramel frappucino in a moment of weakness at 3 p.m. when I can justify spending $5 on a few swallows of coffee because I just ran a dozen errands! but even that gets pricey after a while. Then I was on to McDonald's - that's right, I said it - and their insanely delicious frou-frou coffee blends that were twice as good as Starbucks for half the price (and double the calories). But good people, I've got a baby and I gotta buy diapers and cute clothes for her, so I knew there had to be a better way.
Enter: Iced Coffee. Iced Coffee Concentrate, actually. It's like having the Nectar of Starbucks just waiting in your refrigerator, patiently waiting for you to spill it into a tall glass with lots of ice and a splash of milk and maybe a shot of that hazelnut syrup you've got on the right side of the liquor cabinet. Really, it's just a waiting game. You blitz up a bag of coffee beans to a coarse grind, then give it a good soak under a cheese cloth until it's a fully loaded, high octane power blend. Then you strain it once, strain it twice, and into the icebox it goes, ready for you at a moment's notice.
Now I didn't crunch the numbers exactly, but I only spent $5 on a bag of 8 O'Clock Coffee to make at least four glasses of the iced version. It was divine, smooth and fresh tasting without the slightest bitterness, bold without being in your face about it, and wonderfully creamy and light on a hot afternoon. I certainly recommend spilling in a slip of hazelnut syrupy if you've got it, but it's also delicious with just a bit of milk and a teaspoon or two of sugar.
So get on it. It's too hot to leave the house. Recipe here.

Oh, and before you go, a brief word of advice. This recipe requires a full 15 hours of soaking the beans before it can be strained. I didn't read that part until I was nearly finished, and it was past noon at that point. I stayed up until midnight but decided I wouldn't make it to 3 a.m. for the full 15 hours, so I only soaked my beans for about 12. It was still plenty strong and perfectly drinkable. So if you run out of time, I'd say 12 hours is plenty.


review: voltaggio's family meal.

I am generally not in the business of restaurant reviews. Actually, I think this might be the first one, ever. So I'm gonna start with a little disclaimer, if you don't mind. Bryan Voltaggio. Up until his appearance on Top Chef, I'd never heard of him. I've actually never seen a single episode of the show, never eaten at his restaurant, Volt, and I've never met him in real life.

But Frederick, MD isn't that big of a town, so when a local guy hits the big time and ends up on television and starts opening up restaurants left and right, people tend to talk. Lines go out the door. Waiting lists and reservations are the norm. I've still never eaten at Volt (mostly because I'm afraid I'd spend $200 on dinner for two and leave hungry due to dollhouse-sized portions), but I frequent his soup n' sandwich place, Lunchbox. (By the way, Bryan, if you're reading this, please get in touch. The brownies and cookies at Lunchbox are almost always dry and crumbly and lacking in flavor. Do you need a baker? Help me help you.)

But then came Family Meal, the latest venture in a trio of restaurants wearing the Voltaggio brand. I didn't even know it was coming until opening day (I really need to get out more), but a group of us decided to go a couple of weeks after the doors opened. I didn't know much about it except that it was built in a weird part of town inside an old car dealership and they were supposed to have incredible milkshakes. I imagined there would be a heckuva wait, too, but I was surprised that my group of 5 snagged a table with several empty tables to spare.

Now, I'd work at Family Meal for the uniforms alone. The waitresses all wear mismatched aprons (Anthropologie?) with inky-blue jeans and the guys look like they just stepped out of the 50s with their tucked-in tees. I didn't pay much attention to the music and decor at first, but then I realized it was an odd mix of Johnny Cash and retro wooden stools and I couldn't figure out what sort of vibe the restaurant was going for. My sassy friend, Nicole, said it was supposed to be "like a diner," but I just wasn't getting that. It felt a little confused.

Side note: I loved the chubby ice cubes. It was like having little glaciers bobbing about inside my iced tea. It's the same iced tea they serve at Lunchbox, only Family Meal actually gives you more than shot glass sized portion.

Now I'm not sure if all the servers have to give the same introduction, but ours had a very rehearsed speech about Family Meal being "the latest restaurant from nationally renown Bryan Voltaggio," etc. In my opinion, this set the bar pretty high. If you're going to be throwing names out there, you're putting someone's reputation on the line, and it better be pretty good.

I can't vouch for every item on the menu, but between the five of us, we had a pretty good sampling of everything. Here's the scoop:

Duck Fat Fries: I'd never had them before, but I've heard they're insane. They were pretty good - very hot, super crispy, and served with a spicy ketchup - but if no one told me they'd been fried in duck fat, I'm not sure I would've thought they were anything more than a really, really good batch of fries.

Pot Pie Fritters: Quite delicious, if even a bit salty. All the bits and pieces of a homemade chicken pot pie tucked into a tiny ball of crispy flavor. I could eat more than a handful of these.

Macaroni & Cheese: Yaaaaawn. This was pretty boring. Nothing special at all - it was fairly bland, a little oily, and didn't taste any different than something you'd get at a church potluck. I thought the menu said it had pancetta or something in there, but it was basically noodles and cheese. Skip this one.

Mushroom & Broccoli Rabe Omelet: Nicole and I both had this - it was okay. It was a little on the small side and came out all by its lonesome on a big plate without so much as a sprig of parsley to keep it company. The roasted mushrooms were fantastic, but the rabe was especially bitter and the cheese wasn't warm enough to be melty, a dividing factor between a great omelet and one you pick at with your fork. I told Nicole I was surprised to find nothing came with it for $13.99 - Toast? Hash? Fruit? Just as I was ready to take the last bite of egg, the server showed up with two little bowls of crispy potatoes, apologizing for the delay. Well really, it was a total surprise for me because the menu didn't mention it came with anything at all. The good news is, the potatoes were absolutely divine. Crunchy, piping hot, generously seasoned with lots of garlic and rosemary. We licked the crispy bits from the bottom of the bowl.

Tuna Salad: I am sure the menu had a sexier name for it than "Tuna Salad," but I can't remember exactly what it was. I didn't taste it, but Lauren said it was delicious enough. I think she might've been hungry again an hour later.

Egg Salad Sandwich: Nothing special here. The eggs were minced very, very fine (I like a bit more texture to the salad) and it was served on plain white toast, no sides. I know it's egg salad and there's only so much you can do, but if you're going to serve it under Voltaggio's name, it had better be the best egg salad you've ever had. This one was just okay.

Now, about those milkshakes. More than anything, I'd heard how delicious they were, that the ice cream was house-made, that a few of the choices rested firmly in the Adult category thanks to a spike of booze. So were smacked our lips, ready to place our order, only to have the waitress tell us the only flavor they have is...vanilla. I asked her if it was bourbon vanilla, but nope, just plain ol' vanilla.

Here's where I am somewhat baffled. They offer a banana split with bourbon vanilla, chocolate, and cherry ice creams. They offer a lemon meringue pie with a scoop of blueberry ice cream. There's a cinnamon cake with bay leaf ice cream. Yet they can only make you a vanilla milkshake. Someone please tell me how this makes sense. So, we were a little disappointed to say the least.

Smith Island Cake: This one was my favorite. It was spiked with espresso, crunchy bits of toffee, and layers and layers of vanilla cake. I could've easily eaten the entire slice all by my fat self.

Lemon Meringue: Just okay for me, but the girls really liked it. The "meringue" was more of a charred marshmallow smear on the bottom of the plate, not piled in great big swirls smack on top the pie wedge as I expected. The custard was alright, but the crust didn't have any flavor. Where's the butter, people!?

Vanilla Milkshake: The best part was the charred marshmallow cream crowning the top. The rest? Just a regular vanilla shake, no frills.

Now I want to be gracious because despite the Voltaggio name, all restaurants need a little time to work out the kinks. The servers need to be more familiar with the menu, the cooks need to be able to prepare the dishes with their eyes closed for quality and consistency, and a few of the items could stand for improvement. I'm interested to go back in a couple of months once things have settled down and all the gears are running smoothly.

All in all, a good experience. I want one of those aprons. And I want to bake cookies for Lunchbox. Just sayin'.


chocolate chip peanut butter cookies & such happy news.

Guys, I had a baby. Then I made you some cookies.

You can read more about her here.

Well, if I'm being totally honest, I made these a while ago and I just unearthed the photos somewhere in the 2,000+ I've taken since my daughter was born. That's always a nice treat - finding photos of peanut butter cookies in between snapshots of sweet baby meat. I can't think of anything better.

These cookies came from the Clinton Street Baking Company's cookbook where most of the recipes are more suitable for breakfast, but I went straight for the dessert section. Well, I returned to the dessert section nearly two years after first purchasing a digital version of the cookbook and then never baking from it for fear I'd ruin my Kindle with butter and sugar flying everywhere. And while I'm thinking about it, don't ever buy a cookbook on your Kindle. I don't know what I was thinking. It's totally senseless.

Do, however, make these cookies. They're exactly the sort of thing your mother might pack in your lunchbox for a field trip in first grade. They're studded with chocolate chips and softly scented with peanut butter but not overwhelmingly so. That was important to me. I'm not the sort of person who swoons over the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, it's so terribly rich and I don't like the sensation of it sticking to the roof of my mouth. No. Thank. You.

But these? These are different. They're peanut butter cookies for people who don't like peanut butter cookies. I know - I'm off my rocker, right? But even I couldn't resist sloshing a warm cookie through a tall glass of ice cold milk and tucking more than my fair share into my belly.

You should do the same.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from Clinton Street Baking Company Cookbook

The original recipe says to roll the dough into a log, without freezing, then slice it. This is utter nonsense. The dough is soft and sticky and would never submit to rolling without giving you a world of trouble. Instead, I scooped the dough with a regular cookie scoop and didn't have any trouble at all.

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter, chunky or smooth, not natural
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, peanut butter and sugars until light and fluffy - about 5 minutes. Add the egg and dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Mix in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the dough into balls and roll in granulated sugar. Put the dough onto the baking sheet with about two inches to spare in between each one. Using the back of a fork, press down on each cookie to make a cross-hatch pattern.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until light brown on the edges and softly set in the center. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 20 cookies or so.