Butterscotch Maple Oatmeal Cookies

oatmealbutterscotch6Have you ever wondered what a state would taste like? If you’ve been curious about the flavor of the state of Vermont, I present Butterscotch Maple Oatmeal Cookies. They’re a little rustic and rough, but they have pockets of sweetness like a quaint village you might find on one of the state’s many country roads. They don’t flatten out like a typical cookie, leaving them mountainous with jagged brown peaks. They’re also a bit unusual, because when I think of Vermont, I think offbeat.

My college summers lent themselves to weekend trips to cities throughout New England, and back in the summer between my junior and senior years, my friend Vince and I traveled to Vermont to visit our friend Allie. I remember it was perfect driving weather with blue skies stretching over rural highways. Every few miles, we passed a sign for local farms that listed the their names, logos, and distance from the main road. We saw signs for apple orchards and dairy farms, but when we spotted a sign with the silhouette of a long-legged bird, the words “EMU FARM,” and an arrow directing us a few miles to the west, we had to follow it. Ten minutes later we were face to face with a flock of giant brown beasts.

emus We didn’t dare lean over the fence to touch the birds, but a sign stapled to a post informed us that “emu products” were for sale at the white farmhouse a few hundred yards away. We’d already driven to an emu farm, so we wanted to leave with something to show for it. Continue Reading →



Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

butternutsweetpotatosoup6I was gluttonous this weekend. Like the many other people in the US, I spent Sunday night watching TV and eating classic Super Bowl foods. I had a chicken finger sub, nachos with sour cream and guacamole, potato chips, and tall silver cans of Sixpoint Sweet Action. This would have been a fine exception to my usual diet, but on Friday, I had a meal at Do or Dine that involved deep-fried deviled eggs and a foie gras doughnut (a classic sugar doughnut from Dough filled with fruit preserves and foie gras).

The weekend was worth every bite, but my body is sluggish and swollen. I need to clean up my diet with home-cooked meals that cut down on dairy and bread, and I’m starting with a butternut squash and sweet potato soup that’s full of pureed vegetables. (Trust me, it tastes better than it sounds.) I made a big pot of it Sunday afternoon before Super Bowl festivities began for quick, healthy dinners this week.

butternutsweetpotatosoup1The squash and potatoes are naturally sweet, and once they combined with carrots, celery, onion, and a quart of low-sodium vegetable broth, they simmered into a rich, dairy-free soup. Continue Reading →




sables8Inspired by my trip to Beurre & Sel, I made sables on Sunday for a sketching get together. Not “sketchy” or “sketch,” but sketching, as in drawing still lifes in little notebooks with pencils and charcoal. We sat in a circle and drew containers and flowers on tables draped with cloth, taking plenty of breaks for snacks.

My drawing skills have progressed little since middle school even though I took a class last fall where were drew bicycles, car motors, and nudes. I think that’s why I turn to photography and flower arranging for the visual arts. I can assemble beautiful things, but it’s difficult for me to translate life to lines on paper. Everything’s misshapen and slants ten degrees to the right. I even find it difficult to cut straight lines with my knife in the kitchen. My hands don’t listen. Proof:

sables3Sables are very forgiving, though. As long as I don’t cut them less than 1/3″-thick, they don’t burn. Continue Reading →



Winter Quiche

I know the normal response to cold weather is loading up on carbs, but my body craves greens. It could be a reaction to the lack of sunshine or seasonal produce in the Northeast, but either way, I tore into an arugula salad with lemon juice and Parmesan cheese at Westville this past weekend and it was the best meal I’d had in days. If Ramsey is out for the night and I’m cooking for one, I’ll saute dark green kale leaves and shallots in olive oil while steaming cubes of sweet potato. I top it all with a poached egg and it’s a perfect winter meal.

Winter greens can also follow a less healthy path—a dark, delicious path lined with cream, egg yolks, cheese, and salted pork that leads to just one destination: quiche. Continue Reading →



Honey Cardamom Madeleines

A few Saturdays ago, I woke up and went through my normal winter morning routine: stay under the covers as long as possible while checking Twitter, the New York Times, and email on my phone. My bedroom is always freezing thanks to a weak radiator and two drafty windows, so it takes a lot for me to throw off the blankets and set my feet on the icy hardwood floor. There wasn’t anything groundbreaking on Twitter or in the news, but when I checked my email, I remembered I had to go to a potluck that night and had no idea what to make. There were no strict guidelines, just “bring a dish to pass.” I got out of bed and pulled five cookbooks off the shelf.

I flipped through each book and considered my options—casseroles, salads, cookies, cheesy biscuits—and settled on madeleines, small sponge cakes with just a hint of sweetness.  They are easy to make, but you do need a madeleine pan with the signature scalloped molds.

Madeleines are often flavored with lemon zest or rosewater, but I adapted a Dorie Greenspan recipe that called for warm spices like cinnamon and ground cloves. I added cardamom to the mix, because let’s get real, I add it to most baked goods. Continue Reading →



Mexican Hot Cocoa

I went to the Renegade Holiday Craft Fair last month where dozens of Brooklyn’s most talented makers set up booths by the Williamsburg waterfront. Between marveling at adorable prints and sewing kits and vintage plates with dog decals, I bought a cup of Mexican hot cocoa from Chickpea and Olive. A whole cup of hot cocoa is usually too heavy for me, but Chickpea and Olive’s vegan version with soy milk was perfect. It had just the right amount of spice too: enough to warm the palate, but not overwhelming.

Inspired by that craft fair cocoa, I made my own version this afternoon with ingredients I found in my cupboard.

A few tablespoons of hot cocoa powder, some spices, and a splash of vanilla later, and I had my own batch of Mexican hot cocoa. You can too! You may have everything you need at this very moment. Continue Reading →



Chewy Chai Caramels

I make caramels for Christmas every year. They started as a random addition to the dessert table but they’ve evolved into a tradition that has me hand-wrapping hundreds of little caramel squares late on Christmas Eve-Eve. I bring them to parties and give them out to friends and family in mason jars or tins decorated with poinsettias or snowflake patterns. I usually make them with vanilla and sea salt, but in preparation for this year’s batch, I experimented with a few new flavors.

Masala chai was my most successful experiment. The warm flavors of black tea, cardamom, star anise, and cinnamon mixed well with sugar and cream. Think chai latte meets chewy caramel.

To flavor the caramel, I simmered loose chai in cream and let it steep.  Continue Reading →



Chestnut Stuffing

I don’t want to alarm you, but I have a piece of chestnut shell lodged under the nail of my right middle finger. It’s just an annoyance now, but the fact that it’s there speaks to my devotion to chestnut stuffing. I made it this past weekend for a Friendgiving celebration and have enjoyed it as a side dish for every lunch and dinner since. Does a chestnut stuffing with a side of Caesar salad make a well-balanced meal?

I love chestnuts in all forms—roasted, candied, pureed in soup —but my favorite is covered in herbs among cubes of bread. It’s one of my mother’s signature dishes, and if you want to serve up something a little different for Thanksgiving, it’s worth the potential nail trauma.

It’s an easy recipe that calls for a little manual labor. To prepare the chestnuts, you need to cut Xs all the way through one side of the shells. Roast them on a baking sheet for thirty minutes at 400°F, then let them cool a bit. Peel them while their still warm and make sure to remove the hard outer shell and furry inner skin called the pellicle. Continue Reading →



Fall Vegetable Soup

In an effort to save money, I’ve made a bold commitment: I’m cutting out restaurants for the rest of 2012. Exceptions will be made for social engagements, cheap lunch salads, and a standing Takeout Thursday tradition, but gone are the days of dining out. I can’t justify spending $70 on dinner for two at a local Mexican place (although margaritas may constitute half the bill) while produce rots in the fridge.

It’s easy to bring myself to cook on weeknights when I’m still in work mode, but weekends are tough. Saturdays and Sundays used to be a series of takeout lunches and restaurant dinners, but now I’m making soup. One large pot of soup on Friday night will last Ramsey and I through lunch on Sunday with supplements of bread, crackers, or grated cheese along the way. We don’t need to worry about cooking again until Sunday night.

I made a Fall Vegetable Soup this past weekend with butternut squash, parsnips, zucchini, carrots, spinach, and onions with a few sprigs of thyme. It only cost $23 for supplies (including two boxes of store-bought vegetable broth), so if you estimate $10 per person for lunch and $25 per person for dinner throughout the weekend, that’s a savings of $117.

It was cheap and it taste pretty damn good. Continue Reading →



Caramel Apple Turnovers with Rosemary Crust

The glass of cider sitting by my computer means just one thing: we’re in the midst of apple season. Bust out some apple-based pastries and crank up a Fleet Foxes song because it’s time celebrate the fall harvest.

I started my celebration with a trip to an apple orchard on a perfect afternoon, complete with blue skies, sunshine, and a quarter of the New York City metro area’s population. Once we passed the entry gate, we were able to find some peace in the orchard.

I was joined by my own personal Ben Wyatt. Continue Reading →