For the first time since I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, it feels like winter. This morning when our darling child woke us up at 5:30 in the morning it was a crisp 28 degrees outside. That is pretty uncommon for the Silicon Valley where the wardrobe consists of light terry Google hoodies and flip flops year round. The day after Thanksgiving, we went to chop down a Christmas tree up in the nearby mountains and expecting it to be chilly (since it was the last day of November), we bundled up in coats and scarves and went along our merry way. By the time we actually reached the tree farm we had stripped down to our last layer and were happy we had remembered deodorant. I was roasting, and felt like I should be taking a dip in the pool instead of kicking off the Christmas season. Thankfully, this week it really feels like Christmas is only two weeks away (yea, I’m not ready either!), so I’ve joyfully jumped into cookie baking mode, and this time, I won’t be dreaming of having an icy cocktail by the pool!
Cookies are the perfect gift for someone who isn’t particularly on your Christmas list but you’d still like to let them know you appreciate them. I mean, who doesn’t love an assortment of home baked cookies around the holidays? The best part is they are easy to prep ahead of time, allowing you to focus on the things that really matter like keeping grandma from giving your son a swig of egg nog and your husband from knocking over that freshly poured glass of red wine with his new nerf gun. So, if you make the dough in advance, freeze it in pre-portioned sizes, all that’s left is some oven time and a little sprinkling of salt and voila! you have a fast and thoughtful gift for the carpet guy when he comes to get that red wine stain out of your dining room floor.
These cookies would be excellent with toasted pecans or walnuts. You could even sub the dark chocolate for good quality white chocolate and add cranberries, that would be delicious. (more…)
December 9, 2013. Tags: christmas baking, cinnamon, dark chocolate, edible gift, freezer friendly, make ahead, nutmeg, orange zest, quick and easy, sea salt. baking, chocolate, cookie, dessert, quick and easy. 6 comments.
Well, it’s been quite a year so far. As you may have noticed, I went radio silent for a good chunk of the last year. The last time we spoke, I was newly pregnant and just the thought of food made me ill. I had to un-follow a whole bunch of my favorite instagram feeds because I couldn’t bear to look at photos of food every time I scrolled through. Eventually, I returned to a somewhat normal diet, but by that time our little one was nearly here and I was just too pregnant to cook, photograph and write. Let’s just say I was on a sort of vacation where swollen feet, massive weight gain and hot pepper cravings were the selling points.
On April 10th, we welcomed our own little prince, Oliver Elliot into the world. The past three and a half months have been an incredible adventure. He is the sole object of our affection, and I tell you, it’s hard to get stuff done while he is around. All I really want to do is snuggle and giggle all day long. Luckily, I resigned from my job two months before Oliver was born, so now I actually CAN stare at him for as long as I can keep my eyes open. I have wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember, so having Oliver has made me feel more like myself than ever before. It’s quite strange actually, to feel more like myself now than at any other time in my life.
As any new parent can empathize, until now, we have been in a bit of a newborn fog. We have been blessed with meals from friends from time to time and have managed to make several complete meals together as a family, but for the most part, our eating has devolved into a sort of hunter gatherer type method. Whatever we have on hand is what we have generally subsisted on up to now. I have been learning what cooking looks like while taking care of a newborn who occasionally has melt downs that require me to step away from what I’m doing for unknown amounts of time. I have yet to return to meals that take several hours to prepare and require close attention. Instead, I find myself turning to simply grilled skewers, fresh salads and many bowls of plump berries consumed hurriedly in between feedings.
Slowly, I have started to bake again for special occasions and this past Monday was one of those. A very good friend of mine, who is an incredible chef, had us over for dinner. Undoubtedly we would be served a wonderfully delicious meal so I wanted to be sure to bring her a treat as a thank you. I had some cream cheese frosting in the fridge from the previous special occasion (my husbands 30th birthday) and I wanted to use it up. So, with that in mind I decided to make a sandwich cookie. It couldn’t be just any cookie though, I wanted it to fit her palate and feel like it was meant just for her. She is a savory person. She cooks, she loves salt and acidity and I’m certain her middle name is ‘seasonal’. I believe this recipe is her in a cookie.
There is a good chance I’ll never be famous for anything. That ‘s not meant to be self-defeating, in fact, I don’t know that I’d like all the attention. I mean, who wants people to follow them around taking pictures of their cellulite, bad hair days and unfortunate run-ins with the law? I’ll stick to my quiet life in which my transgressions (cellulite related or otherwise) are kept mostly under wraps.
For some, fame isn’t a choice, it shows up on it’s own, often uninvited, knocking at your door whether you wanted it to or not. In the case of Diane Smith and her infamous chocolate chip cookies, the news was impossible to contain. After making these cookies for years, in massive amounts, satisfying many a sweet tooth, the probability of this secret staying in the recipe box was as likely as an orange tree producing apples. My guess is, “Can I have this recipe?” is the single most common query she receives. For young brides, mastering these cookies is a rite of passage into their matrimonial duties, and for the single men looking to impress a lady, successful execution could be the very thing that changes their relationship status forever.
Over the years, I have had the delectable pleasure of eating many more of these famous confections than one ever should, but had never made them myself, probably for good reason. Months ago, I baked through a batch with the legend herself, as she gave me tips along the way. On paper they look like any run of the mill chocolate chip cookie, but out of the oven they are nothing short of amazing. The cookies I share with you today are an adaptation of the original but still hold the elements that make this one of the best cookies I’ve ever had. I hope Diane doesn’t mind those photographers hiding in the bushes waiting to see her with chocolate on her face. I’m sure they are just hoping that she carries a dozen of her cookies in her purse at all times. (more…)
Do you ever sit down and consider how blessed you are? After a weekend with family and the dearest of friends, the blessedness of my life seems to be as clear as ever. I find it easy to confine myself to the daily distractions, struggles and occasional disappointments that come with living in a city, never leaving room to step outside and view life from a wider angle. Whenever I go home to the mountains, my thoughts grow wider and clearer with all the extra room to breathe. Maybe it’s in part because of all the open space or just the simple joy of fresh pine in the air mingling with smoke billowing from a smoldering wood stove. It might be the slower pace of life or it could be the darkness that falls at night allowing me to gaze at the blanket of stars above, reminding me that I’m smaller than I think I am. Slowing down is easier when I’m in the mountains and spending time on the porch with coffee and a best friend while passing the time chatting about less weighty matters, tends to be a requirement.
I feel very fortunate to live within just a few hours of the rest of my family as well as one of my truest friends. It’s easy to drive up after a busy week and unwind in what feels like the wilderness, comparatively. When I stay with Joleen, in her sweet little cabin in the woods, we often bake together, enjoying the fruit of our labor on the porch swing, in our pajamas, with a tall cup of coffee, admiring the beauty of our surroundings. This time of year, the mornings are still a little brisk, warranting long pants and a light sweater, but warm enough for bare feet. We prop them up on the railing, balancing a plate of frittata or biscotti on our laps, cupping our mugs in our hands as we catch up on life. It’s one of my absolute favorite things to do.
Let me share our view from the porch: Isn’t it lovely?
This past weekend was full of unexpected excitement, the spontaneous and borderline irresponsible kind. On Friday, my honey made a well deserved dinner date for us at a local greek place we’ve wanted to visit for some time. He has a wonderful job that often calls for long hours (which he bears with a smile), so during the past four weeks we have seen little of one another. On our way up the 101, we drove past the Four Seasons Hotel, and thought for a moment how fun it would be to rent a room for a night and enjoy their well known luxury. How spontaneous! How utterly romantic!
Set for 9:15, our reservation was later than we are used to, but to our merriment, the sweet host graciously sat us early. As we poured over the menu, drooling over the dishes coming out of the kitchen intended for our neighbors, we spoke gently to one another, adoring each other over low candle light. We shared a bottle of zinfandel, nibbled on perfectly grilled octopus and feather light zucchini fritters, catching up on the moments we had missed together in the last month. It was exactly what we needed to reconnect.
When I got married, I had the expectation that I would never be lonely again as long as I had my husband by my side. It was an expectation likely created out of naïvety, not comprehending that life is dynamic and will take unexpected turns that may leave me to entertain myself for a while. I could not be more proud of how hard my husband works to invest in his career and in the future of our family. On nights when he comes to bed well into the night, I have to remind myself of that pride, and squeeze him a little to let him know I’m on his side. He needs the reassurance of my support, just as much as I need his spontaneous date nights, especially when they end at the Four Seasons Hotel. Yep. Best husband EVER. (more…)
I am a strong believer in the power of a cookie. It’s a different type of dessert than say, a cake or a pie. A cookie feels different. Not too fancy or showy, just down to earth, like a friend you can really be you with. You can hold it with one hand, dunk it in milk if you’d like and you can bake two dozen of them in 20 minutes, start to finish. For me, this is the holy grail of cookies, the creme de la creme. With a crunchy outside and a soft center, every few bites giving way to a warm, gooey chocolate surprise. Now add in peanut butter and it’s just about the last cookie I’ll ever need.
There have been many famous cookie recipes floating around for some time now. The New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe is a good example. I have yet to try them, but they have become quite a cult classic. I’d like to take these two head to head and see who wins. I would put my money on the peanut butter all the way. (more…)
I’m sure it goes without saying that I look forward to the weekend. All the excitement builds up all week until finally on Friday at 5 I can breathe freely looking forward to a couple of uninterupted days to do what ever I want. For me, Saturday mornings are the best. With the absence of an alarm clock and any sort of schedule for that matter, time seems to move slower somehow. My coffee always tastes better without the rush and Saturday breakfast is undoubtedly more delicious than any other day, even if it’s merely a crisp cookie dipped into a cup of hot coffee. (more…)
As my palate evolves, I find that I am more interested in the delicate combination of savory and sweet. When things sound like they shouldn’t go well together, I want to eat them. Like the apple pie with cheddar cheese crust or these rosemary shortbread cookies. Maybe the excitement lies in the unchartered territory of these seemingly odd flavor combinations. Almost as if they have never existed together before. My immense desire to try new things is satiated by this new world.