Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (& first impressions)

They often say, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.”

And with Nick I didn’t make a very good one.

I was mean.

I was curt, cold.

To put it plainly…

I was a bitch.

He reminded me of someone that irked and irritated me, someone who left a sour taste in my mouth. But, that someone wasn’t Nick. He was kind and smart and hardworking and fun. He had a story to tell, a new life he was adjusting to. It took a few weeks of short responses, snarky comments, and serious side eye to realize that.

Lucky for me, Nick turned out to be immensely generous and forgiving. Once I got over my own baggage and realized how ridiculous I had been acting and how fantastic he was, a real friendship formed. Nick is a maker too – a gifted wood worker and talented craftsman. His appetite for knowledge only surpassed by his staggering work ethic. The research and effort he puts in to honing his craft and building a business inspires and impresses me. I didn’t know any of this when we first met – what with being too busy having my head up my own ass to bother learning.

But, I got the chance to learn so much earlier this year, on my visit back to SC in January. One brisk afternoon I went out to his farm – saw his shop, met his dogs, fed some goats. We sat and had coffee (more on that to come), diving deep into discussion. He showed me the projects he was working on, namely one he had dubbed #spoonsforgoons2018 wherein he tasked himself with carving a new spoon every week for the entire year. Each one different, unique, intended for a family member or friend with a specific purpose in mind. An iced tea spoon for his girlfriend, a serving spoon for me, a cookie dough spoon for a former neighbor in Jersey.

It was this spoon that tugged hardest at my heartstrings.

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Fruit Loops Macarons (& doing)

Believe it or not, I’ve got nothing to say.

That’s why I’ve sat on this recipe for so long.

There are no witty prose. No poignant story. No 2000 word diatribe about my feelings.

There are just these macs. And these photos. Both of which I’m supremely proud of.

Because it’s like Amy Poehler says in her book “…do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.”

So this is the thing – Fruit Loop Macarons. It’s the making and the baking and the photographing and the writing. And the doing.

Fruit Loop Macarons

110 grams almond flour

110 grams pulverized Fruit Loop cereal*

400 grams powdered sugar

200 grams egg whites, aged 24 hours

100 grams granulated sugar

5 drops blue food coloring

Whisk together the almond flour, crushed cereal, and powdered sugar. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy. Pour in granulated sugar and food coloring and increase speed to high. Whisk until stiff peaks form.

Fold the dry ingredients into the whipped egg whites. At first the batter will be clumpy, keep folding and you’ll soon have a thick, glossy mixture that should fall off of a rubber spatula in thick ribbons.

Pour batter into a piping bag fitted with the end snipped off.

Pipe small, even rounds onto silicone mat lined baking sheets. Let stand for one hour, until the tops of the cookies have a hard shell that isn’t tacky when touched.

While the macs sit, preheat oven to 350 degrees. When cookies are ready bake in preheated oven for 10 – 12 minutes, until tops are rounded and set and feet have appeared around the bottom of the cookies.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before filling.*

Fruit Loop Frosting

2 cups Fruit Loops, divided

½ cup whole milk

½ cup shortening

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ tsp. salt

Place one cup of cereal in a small bowl and pour milk overtop. Let stand for twenty minutes. Remove cereal and discard, reserving milk.

Cream together the shortening and butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add cereal milk 1 TBSP at a time until frosting is smooth. Crush up remaining cereal and stir into frosting.

Fill a piping bag fitted with the 1B tip with frosting and frost ½ of the cookies and top with remaining cookies.

*I like to pulverized my cereal in a food processor to get the finest grains I can.

*macs can be stored, unfilled for a few days in an airtight container – the flavor may even intensify!

*recipe adapted from this info graphic. (I know, I can’t believe it either!) And the frosting from this recipe!

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (& comfort)

We could all use a little comfort right now, yes? With the cold and the snow and the anticipation of the year ahead of us – unknown, unfamiliar.

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

We could all use a little something known, something familiar.

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Of course, it doesn’t hurt if it’s also something sweet.

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are one of my all time favorite treats. They’re easy to put together and even easier to enjoy. Well-known, well-loved. By virtually everyone. Browned butter as the base adds a little more richness and a dash of cinnamon brings some much needed warmth at this time of year (or really any).

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Peppermint Pinwheel Meltaways

I suck at spritz cookies. Royally. I’ve tried numerous recipes – old ones, new ones. I’ve tried numerous cookie presses – old ones, new ones. For whatever reason, they’ve just never worked out. The dough is too gooey or to too tough or spreads to much or has no flavor. Maybe some day, I’ll know what I’m doing wrong and get my act together.

Peppermint Pinwheel Meltaways

Until then, there are these lovelies! A cookie so buttery and soft and melt-in-your-mouth that they beat spritz butt. Plus, they’re just as adorable what with their perfect little pinwheels!

Peppermint Pinwheel Meltaways

This dough is slightly adapted from one in my great grandmother’s recipe notebook, it’s easy to whip up and even easier to work with (something I haven’t encountered with other spritz recipes). A dash of peppermint extract keeps the Christmas-y and matches their beautiful peppermint swirl.

Peppermint Pinwheel Meltaways

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Vanillekipferl

He raised his left hand, pointed his index finger upward. Eyes closed in thought. He chewed, waited a beat. They opened up, big and brown.

I had seen that look before, watched that procession from tastebuds to fingertips. It felt so good to witness again.

“Holy shit this is good! You were right.”

It was the first bite of our dinner. We had met at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate at my urging (always at my urging). We were sharing a bunch of small plates, this one being a roasted squash salad.

I sat across from Sam, seconding his expletives. I tried to appear humble at the dinner’s success but had known no matter what we had ordered that it would be phenomenal. And, better yet, knowing he would undoubtedly enjoy it, even after all this time apart.

I had anticipated a lot about my return to Wisconsin. Being more available for family functions, relishing the changing seasons, driving on winding farm roads. But I didn’t anticipate this, never could have in my wildest dreams. I was getting a second chance at friendship, one that had been very near and dear to my heart for some of my most formative years.

Sam and I met the first day of freshman orientation. We quickly clicked. I found refuge in his presence. A reprieve from the chaos of my new environment, new responsibilities. He was always upbeat, outgoing, a drawstring bag permanently attached to his broad shoulders.

One of the things we bonded over most was food. We loved eating it, loved talking about it. We shared countless meals at the dining halls in those first few months of school, ate at different restaurants in town, shared snacks in dorm rooms. There was one instance of him clambering into the trunk of my family’s SUV, already packed full, coming along to get frozen custard.

I got used to seeing his long, slender hands move as he ate. An extension of the meal, almost. Delicate, precise, punctuating his points – whether they be about the meal, a class, the news. One weekend, he went home and returned with dumplings made by his grandfather, an entire container full, a gift for me.

Before winter break freshman year, he shared these cookies with me, made by his mom. I was completely enamored. Crisp, sugary, sweet. He returned the next quarter with the recipe written in his mother’s hand, another gift for me.

After those first few months, we began to drift, our interests and issues taking us in different directions. His to South Africa, China, Spain and more. A gifted videographer and storyteller, his kind heart a driving force in what he created, the stories he told. Mine saw me sequestered to kitchens – at school, at home, in the South. I dove deeper into baking, telling my stories that way. We saw one another from time to time, walking across campus, but there weren’t any more meals, any more outings. In fact, we went nearly three years without speaking directly to one another, until a fateful message from him right before I moved back to Wisconsin.

That message led to texts that led to brunch. Brunch led to a walk to get cookies. That led to a conversation in a nearby park, sitting under the warm September sun.

“You’re very different than when we met. You’re calmer, more sure of yourself,” he told me while we ate. I nodded.

Before, I would have balked at the suggestion; adamant it was untrue. Not anymore. I knew he was right. I wasn’t the scared and sick teenager he had met all those years ago. He was different too, not entirely the seemingly carefree, boisterous ball of motion I remembered. He’d seen and experienced so much, collected memories and stories from across the globe. He had only ever supported me in those early stages of our friendship, encouraging my love of food, my written voice. After a lot of work, I had learned to support myself, a quiet confidence that wasn’t there at 18. He had it too. It permeates our time together now. We share more than food at meals. Hopes, goals, fears, flaws. I’m in awe at how much he seems to understand me (and himself) after all this time. It has moved me (and sometimes him) to tears every time we’ve been together. He claims my emotions are just as strong now as they were freshman year, he’s not scared of my tears.

And I’m thankful for that. For his mom’s wish of “Good luck!” on her handwritten recipe for these vanillekipferl. For his invitation to spend Christmas day with his family. For the chance to learn how to make those beloved dumplings of lore. For his his friendship, then and now.

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