She faced the blank computer screen and bided4 her time. Fussing over items on the desk (a pen that had rolled astray, a stack of old bills that needed shuffling, a keyboard that needed a good swipe between the keys) took a few moments. Then there was the pile of soft, puffy cloud cookies on the plate; she tended to one of those two. She got up, went to the bathroom, forgot why she walked into the bathroom, came back, sat down and sighed. “What do I need to say?” she murmured aloud. The cat purred in response from the windowsill. “Maybe it’s the wrong question,” she told the uninterested cat. She sighed again and rubbed the heel of her hand over her heart. “What do I need to hear?”
That was an easier place to start. The words she typed out, she could change and probably would before she was done. But at least it was a start.
“You are a good person.
You are loved and you love. You work hard. You’re trying your best. You have both hands out, open and waiting. It’s all you can do.
I’m sorry you hurt; I don’t know why but I know that it’s more than you deserve. It’s temporary, though- whether it leads to something better or worse, it’s a moment, just a glimpse and in a second it’ll be gone, poof. Gone like one of these cookies. If you can’t trust in anything right now, trust in that. A minute ago, you were four years old. Ten. Twenty. All of your hurts have collapsed inside you, fallen away. If I picked one out and handed it to you, you may not even recognize it as your own. Isn’t that something? It’s something.
Hope does not spring eternal. It does not. Hope is a well that sometimes goes dry. Sometimes you have to add the spring back to it, feed it, pour it in with those two, open hands. Sometimes you have to pour it in, stand back, and wait for it to fill back up. If you think it will, just wait, and it will. If you think it won’t, pour in some more. Do the work. Scrape and pull and squeeze water from the earth, if you have to, but get it into the bucket and, by God, pour it in. Get others to help you, if you need to- get an army, if you need to. Find someone who will stand beside you and whisper in your ear, “It will fill up. It always, always does.”
It always, always does.
Jam Meringue Cookies
2 Egg whites
1 Tablespoon of fruit jam, room temperature
6 drops of red food coloring
1/8 Teaspoon of cream of tartar
1/3 Cup of superfine sugar or granulated sugar
1/3 Cup of sifted powdered sugar
1. To prep: pour egg whites into a large, steel or glass bowl (wiped clean) and let stand, covered, for at least 30 minutes. Cover 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Preheat oven to 300°F. In a small mixing bowl, stir together jam with food coloring. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl, combine the superfine sugar and powdered sugar; set aside. Uncover eggs and add cream of tartar. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a team, beating for 5 to 7 minutes at medium speed until stiff glossy peaks form and sugar is dissolved.
4. Use a spatula to gently fold 1/2 cup of the meringue mixture into the bowl of jam; gently fold jam mixture into the remaining meringue.
5. Using a pastry bag (or a large spoon), pipe or scoop onto the parchment paper.
7. Place baking sheets in oven and turn off oven. Let them dry in the oven, with the door closed, for 1 hour or until dry and crisp but still light in color. Let cool on parchment paper.
“Into the pot you go,” Shan said. He spoke aloud when he cooked, as if coaxing a confession from the ingredients. As an adult, a grown man with children and grandchildren of his own, it would bring a smile to Kayin’s face. As a boy, he sighed with impatience and resisted the urge to tap his hands against the round table. The room smelled sticky and rich, the sheen of the broth resting itself temporarily on Shan’s face.
Shan knew his grandson was hungry. Kayin was always very, very hungry. He hungered for everything under the sun, even the sun; the morning before last, Shan had opened the door to find Kayin standing in the tall grass, his round face tilted up to the sun with his mouth open wide. Now he sat at the table and watched Shan’s every move. “Into the pot, one, two, three.” Shan would not be rushed, not even for his grandson. He kept one eye on the pot and one eye on Kayin, in case Kayin gave in to his urge and began to chomp at the table.
He had not always been so hungry, Kayin. When his mother lived, he had enough. Now, there was never enough for Kayin. Shan stirred the pot and urged patience, for them both.
Happy New Year! We resisted the urge to continue filling the blog with cookies and bars and other sweet treats. Instead, you’re getting a taste of what’s in our kitchens these days. Rich, soul-satisfying soups, stews and broths.
Every year, it seems like there are more and more cleanses happening but it’s never been my style. It’s just so… severe. I need a little comfort with my austerity, if that makes any sense. I need heat and heft and something, you know, to chew. Chewing is good, I think. Chewing implies that you’re working some stuff out, in your head and in your heart- mulling it, chewing it, thinking it over.
You know (as I’ve said every year) how much I thoroughly adore the spirit of January. I just do. Spring may be nature’s renewal but January is our renewal time. And I do, I just love it. Bring on the self-help books and the encouraging articles about habits and getting organized and stress-relief tips and “letting it go” and mindfulness and heart health. Love love love. January is a month of chicken soup for the soul and this year, we need it more than ever.
So here’s my own tip, to be tossed into the ring with all the others- protect your eyes. Don’t shut out the world but don’t absorb so much that you become immune to its pains. Take care of your heart this month. Yes, you need to listen. Yes, you need to know. But you’re only going to be a force of good in the world if you hold on to the good with two hands and don’t let it drown in the bad. Take care of your heart, please. Do it for all of us.
Shrimp Khao Soi
4 Large New Mexico or guajillo chiles, stemmed, halved, seeded*
2 Medium shallots, halved
8 Garlic cloves
One 2″ Piece of ginger, peeled, sliced
1/4 Cup of chopped cilantro stems
1 Tablespoon of ground coriander
1 Tablespoon of ground turmeric
1 Teaspoon of curry powder
2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil
Two 14 Oz. cans of unsweetened coconut milk
1 and 1/2 Lb of shrimp
1 Lb of Chinese egg noodles
3 Tablespoons of fish sauce (to taste)
1 Tablespoon of packed palm or light brown sugar
Sliced red onion, bean sprouts, cilantro sprigs, crispy fried onions or shallots, chili oil and lime wedges (for serving)
Make the paste:
1. Place chiles in a small heatproof bowl, add boiling water to cover, and let soak until softened, 25–30 minutes.
2. Drain chiles, reserving soaking liquid. Purée chiles, shallots, garlic, ginger, cilantro stems, coriander, turmeric, curry powder, and 2 Tbsp. of soaking liquid in a food processor, adding more soaking liquid by tablespoonfuls, if needed, until smooth.
Make the soup:
3. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add khao soi paste; cook, stirring constantly, until slightly darkened, 4–6 minutes. Add coconut milk and broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, simmer for 20–25 minutes. Add shrimp and remove when cooked through.
4. Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions.
5. Add shrimp, 3 Tbsp. fish sauce, and sugar back to soup. Season with salt or more fish sauce, if needed. Divide soup and noodles among bowls and serve with toppings.
*I’ve had a lot of luck finding chili like these at Whole Foods- J
Smitty & The Girl
The Murder Mystery Year: Chapter 1
Read the First 39 Episodes Petula and her twin sister Rose were about to have it out in a field on the edge of town. Frank and Sylvia Mathers suffered through a family reunion of their own as the beleaguered maid Aggie looks on. And Lily Newell took matters into her own hands, steering her son and grandson to the Mathers mansion and right into a confrontation that’s been fifteen years in the making.
Cliffwood was a quiet town, more quiet than most. Being a policeman in a hamlet like Cliffwood, therefore, attracted a certain personality-type.
The five men and two women who made up the Cliffwood Police had stayed at the Cliffwood Police Station because they all enjoyed variations of the same thing: peace and quiet. For some, that meant fishing. For others, it meant long naps. Walks in Ferrer Woods. Hunting. More fishing. They didn’t mind the small mound of paperwork or the patrols. They played chess and checkers at an abandoned desk in the corner of the station (once belonging to a town youth named Watts who up and left the Cliffwood force after three months, for the big city for some excitement. They wished him well.) They accepted calls from Cliffwood residents about cats stuck up in trees and grannies who were lost and wandering in neighbor’s yards. Occasionally, a young punk was dragged in with a can of spray paint and he begged to be booked, only to have his mother called instead.
That night, there were two officers on duty in the station. Clemmons and Gibb sat on opposite sides of a chess board and studied their next moves. Clemmons was young, black and female. Gibbs was old, white and male. They had opted for the same shifts that week by pure circumstance (Clemmons’ husband had snagged day shifts at Cliffwood Medical for the next month and Gibbs thought the day shift had gotten too “rowdy” and that the night shift would be a nice change of pace) and were amiable enough company. For one thing, they were the only two officers in Cliffwood who played chess instead of checkers.
For another, when Tom Mulpepper burst through the station doors, out of breath, his hair standing up as if in shock, his eyes wide, and told them there’d been a murder at the Mather house on the hill, both Clemmons and Gibb thought it was a joke.
It took only a few minutes, a jigger of whiskey from Gibb’s desk, and Tom’s shaking voice to convince Clemmons that this was the real deal. She put a hand on Gibb’s shoulder and told him to take a statement, called an ambulance to follow them to the Mather house, and hustled them both out the door to lock up behind them.
In the car, she set the siren ablaze and had Gibb read Tom’s statement back to him. “Between 7 and 7:15pm, Tom Mulpepper arrived at the Mather house with his son Bobby to deliver Sylvia Mather’s repaired antique vehicle, as is their arrangement. Bobby Mulpepper drove Tom’s Ford truck and parked it at the end of the long driveway and Tom drove the antique jalopy, his word not mine, to the front of the house. He put it in park and knocked on the front door. He was about to leave the key under the mat, as is their arrangement, when he noticed the front door slightly ajar. He was about to leave, not wishing to deal with Sylvia Mathers more than he absolutely had to, his words not mine, when he heard a woman scream from inside the house. He yelled for Bobby and entered the home and followed the ruckus, his word, to the parlor in the back of the house, off the kitchen, where he found -“
“Ruckus?” Clemmons narrowed her eyes in the mirror and focused on Tom’s pale face. He was in shock, she thought as she drove the car through town. “What kind of ruckus, Tom? What did you hear?”
“I-I heard more screaming. And a sound, like a plate breaking. Or a pile of plates maybe. There was a crash. A-and-“
“And?” she pressed. “Close your eyes. Focus. Tell me what you heard.”
“S-scraping. A crash and scraping, like a chair across the floor.”
“Good. You get that?” she asked Gibb. He nodded. “Go on.”
Gibb continued to read. “Tom followed the ruckus, his word, to the parlor in the back of the house, off the kitchen, where he found Sylvia Mather, her maid Aggie and a bunch of other people, including Mike the bartender, standing around a body on the floor. The body belonged to a man in his sixties, maybe seventies. He had gray hair and there was blood all around his head. He was definitely dead.” Tom’s head had dropped low behind them. Gibb glanced at Clemmons. “His son Bobby stayed at the house, to make sure nobody left or touched anything.”
“I watch TV,” Tom mumbled from the backseat. “CSI.”
“Thank god for TV.” Clemmons swung the car up the driveway to the Mather house and inwardly, readied herself for the long night ahead.
It’s January and I’m feeling a little ambitious; ready to take all of my stories (big and small, fiction and non-fiction) in new directions. Ready for change and big things, energized by possibility. I hope you’re feeling the same way and have a happy, healthy and prosperous new year…
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Nana played Judy Garland at Christmas, exclusively. She played Judy and danced in the kitchen, a soft shoe. When we made cookies, she crooned, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and when I complained that it wasn’t even a Christmas song, she tsked and spun me around and powdered sugar sprung from my shirt and she said, “Some songs are for always.”
Nana was my song for always.
I have a theory that this time of year is so alluring because of all those damn twinkle lights. It’s definitely a solid draw. That and the smell of slowly cooking sugar.
I love these cookies. I love them. They are the twinkle lights of cookies. They remind me of being young and standing in the bakery next to my mother. If I was lucky, she’d buy me a Linzer tart, one of the big ones, with the raspberry jam poking out of its powdery window. I still find those cookies impossible to resist. And as soon as I saw these, I knew my greedy heart had to have them. They’re so grown up and fanciful, aren’t they?
Isn’t it nice to be grown up but still fanciful? To eat cookies for dinner. To sit in a dark living room and stare at a bundle of forest and light. To contemplate wishes, both lost and found.
We have one more cookie recipe to share with you before we take a brief respite over the holidays! Stay tuned…
SKS Holiday Recipes
S’more Cookies | The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies | Snowball Cookies (Foodie.com) | Cookie in a Skillet | White Chocolate Peppermint M&M Cookies | Hot Cocoa Cookies | Shortbread Cookies Filled With Caramel | Crisp Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies | Bourbon Balls | Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies |Beurre and Sel Jammers | Brown Butter Salted Caramel Snickerdoodles | Nutella Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies | Turtle Tassies | Walnut Bombs | Whiskey Truffles | Caramel Corn with Bacon and Cashews | Apricot White Chocolate Biscotti | Homemade Peppermint Patties | Easy Buckeye Brownie Cookies (new!)
Nana’s Butter Cookies with Milk Jam
*Note: dough must be chilled for at least 1 hour and milk jam cooks for 1.5 hours
For the cookies:
1 and 1/2 Cups (3 sticks) of unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 Cup of powdered sugar
2 Teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons of whole milk
2 Teaspoons of kosher salt
2 and 1/2 Cups of all-purpose flour, plus more
1 Large egg
For milk jam and assembly:
1 Qt. of goat’s milk or cow’s milk
1 and 1/4 Cups of granulated sugar
3/4 Teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
Powdered sugar (optional; for serving)
For the cookies:
1. In a medium bowl, beat butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla on high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
2. Reduce speed to low; add milk, salt, and 2 and 1/2 cups of flour and mix just to combine.
3. Form dough into a 1/2 inch-thick disk and wrap in plastic. Chill until firm, at least 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 325°. Let dough sit at room temperature to soften slightly, about 5 minutes.
5. Roll dough out between 2 sheets of parchment paper until about ⅛ inch thick. Cut out rounds with a floured 2.5 inch diameter cookie cutter. Cut out a circle in half of the rounds with a 3/4 inch diameter cookie cutter and transfer to 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart.
6. Whisk egg and 1 tsp. water in a small bowl and brush tops of cookies with egg wash. Bake cookies, rotating halfway through, until golden brown, 12–15 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to wire racks and let cookies cool.
For the milk jam & assembly:
7. Combine milk, sugar, and baking soda in a large saucepan; scrape in vanilla seeds and add pod. Bring just to a boil over medium heat, swirling pot to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, until mixture is reduced to about 1 and 1/4 cups (it will darken and separate, with little bits visible), about 80–90 minutes. Strain milk jam through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl and let cool.
8. Spoon a small amount of milk jam onto flat side of a cookie without a hole and sandwich with a cookie with a hole. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.
Do Ahead: Cookie Dough and Milk jam can both be made 5 days ahead. Cover and chill.
Episode 39: Smitty & The Breakfast Club
Read the First 38 Episodes | Previously on Smitty & The Girl: Mike Newell’s small family has just been rocked, big time, by the sudden arrival of his son’s mother the day before. Little does he and Lily, his own mother, know that young Freddy had an adventure of his own with his long-lost mother, mere hours ago…
It was Lily’s idea to go out for breakfast. She had expected both of her boys to sleep in but they both stumbled down the stairs at a shockingly reasonable time, their hair equally mussed and their eyes bleary. For a second, it felt like Christmas morning, the only time they appeared in the kitchen so early on a day when they weren’t expected to be at school or work.
It never failed to make her heart ache, those first few years when her son and grandson would appear on Christmas morning. It reminded her how young her own son was, still, when Freddy was just a toddler.
One look at them both and she put away the boxes of cereal and declared that they were going to Smitty’s for pancakes. Mike grunted in reply. Freddy silently went to put on a hoodie and his sneakers. As he passed her, Lily grabbed him by the arm. “You all right?” she asked and she put a hand on his cheek, surprised when his red eyes filled with unshed tears. “Freddy-“
“I’m fine. Just hungry.” He didn’t wrench himself away, he stopped himself, but he did take her hand and pull it from his face. “Let’s just go. Forget it.”
“No, I won’t.” Lily glanced behind her and saw that Mike was busy putting on his shoes, well beyond earshot. She looked at her grandson. “Talk to me, Freddy.”
He sucked in a breath and pulled the hood up over his head. “I heard you and Dad last night,” he said, his voice low and Lily felt her heart give way. When his eyes filled again, she nodded. She needed to recovery from these blows, she thought, faster and faster. There was never enough time to process these little breaks to her heart. And then he shook his head, “Can we just go?”
“Yes.” Lily steeled herself and ushered him out the front door, gestured for Mike to follow them. “I’ll drive,” she said to her son and he shrugged. We’ll go, she thought, but not where you think.
She wondered how long it would take her boys to notice that she steered the car away from Main Street and instead headed straight for the mansion at the top of the hill.
As you may or may not know, Nicole and I go back and forth on how recipes get picked for this site. One week, I present three options and Nicole makes the final call and the next week, we switch. It’s very uniform and fair and this way, each of us gets to make what we want every week (more or less).
In October, November and December, all of our recipes fall into holiday related themes. October- baked goods for Halloween. November- side dishes and desserts for Thanksgiving. And December is all about cookies. We’ve been doing this for three years now so we basically know what to expect. However, this year I jumped the gun a few WEEKS when Nicole casually asked, the second week of November, what we should make that week and I launched into a big declarative statement about buckeye cookies. Forgetting completely that it was still November.
All of this to say that I am really frigging excited, apparently, to start baking cookies.
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“Okay, let’s see.” She hit the swooped arrow and they all held their breath as the page blinked and reloaded. When the group saw the name at the top of the page, they booed and railed.
“Ugh, come on Ted!”
“Of COURSE it’s from Ted!”
“Ted’s the worst!”
Lorraine frowned and walked over to where Stan, Jerry, Kelly and Lara were gathered around Stacy’s computer. “What are you guys doing?”
“It’s 2:30 on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving,” Stacy reminded Lorraine. She nodded to her computer screen. “We’re trying to see how long I can go without getting a new email. I haven’t had a new one in 5 minutes! I mean, before Ted.”
Lorraine stared at them all. “Maybe we should just go home, guys.”
Are you feeling what I’m feeling? Which is “what am I still doing at my desk?” It feels… like BETRAYAL that there are things that still need to get done this week. Doesn’t the universe know I have eating to do? Serious eating? World championship eating?
This is my first eating-centric holiday since I hit my goal weight (which SEEMS like a positive but I have been racked with anxiety over maintaining this weight ever since, determined not to screw it up). I had thought, foolishly perhaps, that once I hit The Number, all of my worries and fears and anxiety over food (what? how much? when? why?) would just dissipate into thin air but, if anything, it’s just intensified. I am eyeing this holiday with equal parts joy and trepidation. And so, my somewhat panicked answer, is to wrap the entire week in soup (that’s a funny sentence).
Soup for everyone! Hot, warming, comforting, deceptively light and ethereal soup will sustain us and redeem us. Maybe you’ll tackle this for a first course or maybe it’s the answer to “what the hell are we going to eat at 8pm when we’re oddly hungry again” on Thursday night. Or maybe it’s for Friday. Or Wednesday. Soup is always, always a reliable answer, popping and gurgling over there on the stovetop, minding its own bidness. And this Pumpkin Coconut Soup is so easy that it practically makes itself.
SKS Thanksgiving Recipes
Traditional Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows | Butternut Squash Soup | Sugar and Spice Cocktail Nuts | No Knead Dinner Rolls | Apple Crumb Pie | Mad Easy Chocolate Pecan Pies | Apple Crisp | Almond Crunch Pumpkin Cheesecake | Multicultural Stuffing | Pear Cornmeal Cake with Rosemary Syrup | Brussels Sprouts with Mint & Anchovy Sauce | Spinach with Fresh Indian Cheese | Mini Pumpkin Pies (new!) | Whiskey Glazed Carrots (new!)
Thanksgiving Recipes 2014: Easy Pumpkin Coconut Soup
2 Cups of pumpkin puree
2 Cups of water or broth
1/3 to 1/2 Cup of coconut milk
1 Teaspoon (up to 2 teaspoons) of red curry paste
3 or 4 Tablespoons of honey
1/4 Teaspoon or more of cumin
Pumpkin seeds and herbs (optional)
1. In a large saucepan, combine pumpkin, water/broth, and coconut milk on medium heat, and stir to combine.
2. Add 1/2 teaspoon of red curry paste, stir to combine. Add honey. Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin to the soup and season the soup with salt to achieve the desired saltiness. Once you seasoned the soup with salt, you may add more red curry paste if desired, using 1/2 teaspoon. Some ready-made curry pastes are spicier than others.
3. Top with roasted, salted pumpkin seeds and a scattering of chopped, fresh herbs.
“Did you know that Some Kitchen Stories now has all of their recipes on Pinterest?”
“What? No way! Tell me more!”
“It’s true! I just clicked on their profile and now I can see their whole recipe collection right there! It’s amazing!”
“It IS amazing. What happens if I click “pin” on this whiskey glazed carrot recipe?”
“Why you get to keep it forever, Tamera! You ridiculous fool!”
“I am going to pin all of their gorgeously photographed recipes into my own Pinterest profile. That’s what I’m going to do. Thanks, Chloe. You’re the best.”
“I know, right? I AM the best.”
Okay! Holidays! WE ARE GO.
Right now, at this moment, there are Doughnut Muffins on the table. There are mini pies, improvised with this new maple recipe, in a foil-wrapped baking tray (I really need to buy some disposable holiday-treats receptacles). There is homemade Salty Caramel Ice Cream in the freezer and a container of salty, buttered pecans… somewhere… some are in my belly (all made last night, Friday night, by the way, because my life is sad? Or amazing? I mean it did smell amazing in here, like slowly simmering maple syrup and warm donuts. Yeah, I’m going with amazing. We’re going with amazing, not sad, spread the word.)
It’s 9:30 in the morning and it’s totally fine, I’m not worried at all, but I have to do laundry, clean the apartment in preparation for my parents’ arrival on Tuesday (yay!), go running (to prepare for all of the food that I will be eating later today), wrap my friend’s birthday present, finish writing this post and all before 1pm…. I should probably get going. Right? Yeah. HOLIDAYS. WE ARE GO.
For your holiday table this year, we tackled a seasonal, festival vegetable and (with a nod to Ree) made everything better by adding whiskey, butter and brown sugar. Because HOLIDAYS. WE ARE GO.
SKS Thanksgiving Recipes
Traditional Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows | Butternut Squash Soup | Sugar and Spice Cocktail Nuts | No Knead Dinner Rolls | Apple Crumb Pie | Mad Easy Chocolate Pecan Pies | Apple Crisp | Almond Crunch Pumpkin Cheesecake | Multicultural Stuffing | Pear Cornmeal Cake with Rosemary Syrup | Brussels Sprouts with Mint & Anchovy Sauce | Spinach with Fresh Indian Cheese | Mini Pumpkin Pies (new!)
Whiskey Glazed Carrots
1 Stick of butter, divided
2 Pounds (to 3 pounds) of carrots, peeled
1/2 Cup of Jack Daniels or other whiskey
3/4 Cup (to 1 cup) of brown sugar
1/2 Teaspoon (to 1 teaspoon) of salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Chopped chives or a sprig of thyme (optional)
1. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add carrots in two batches, cooking until they take on some color (about 60-90 seconds per batch). Remove from skillet.
2. Pour in whiskey and allow to evaporate 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium, and add remaining butter. When butter melts, sprinkle brown sugar over the top. Stir together, then add carrots back to skillet. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Remove lid and add salt and pepper. Continue cooking until carrots are done and glaze is thick, about 5 more minutes.
4. Pour onto a platter and serve immediately. Sprinkle with chopped chives or sprigs of thyme, if desired.
Jane sampled the first bite of her Cornbread, Chorizo, Cherry and Pecan Stuffing and smiled. “It’s good! I think it’s good.” She looked at her mother and raised her eyebrows. “What do you think?”
“I like it.” Her mother nodded encouragingly, her new blonde bob bobbing. “Add it to the list.” It was a new tradition, if there was such a thing, for the Marksons to try a slate of new recipes two weeks before Thanksgiving and hand-select the ones that would make the table that year. Ever since Jane took over the holiday, in her new house with the two ovens she just needed to use fully, she had to, it was necessary, this was how she wanted to tackle the holiday and her mother obliged. (Her mother was just relieved her daughter and Jim, her husband of two years, hadn’t actually moved to Cincinnati as they thought they might and would’ve agreed to anything her daughter suggested, if it meant she lived down the block for the rest of their days.)
Jane glanced up at her mother who had failed to go for a second bite of the gorgeously complex and interesting side dish. “Are you sure you like it?”
“Of course! It’s very good.” Jane wanted to believe her mother, behind her wide smile, she really did.
“I have an idea,” Jane said suddenly. “I saw it on Pinterest- since I’ve been married for two years, why don’t you make a dish that you made for Thanksgiving when you were first married! Wouldn’t that be fun? That would be fun.”
Her mother’s smile faltered. “Oh, I don’t- how would I even know what I made then-“
“Funny you should say that because… I have them all right here!” Jane reached behind her and plopped the leather bound album onto the table between them. The turkey roulade winced and the stuffing beside her bounced. Jane beamed. “Grandma found it and gave it to me, isn’t it great? It’s all of your old recipes. And marked by date!” Jane practically squealed and grabbed her mother’s hand, appreciative of their equal appreciation for organization. “Let’s see what we’ve got.”
“Yes, let’s see.” Her mother stifled a smile. “Let’s see what I made for dinner in 1972. This should be interesting.”
Jane turned the crackling pages and found the list. “Let’s see here. Okay, recipes you made. Hmmm. Individual Turkey Noodle Casseroles. Okay- noodles, margarine, cooked turkey, condensed cream of mushroom soup, capers, thin cream, what’s thin cream? And 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese.” Her words trailed off. “Okay, maybe not that one.” She smiled brightly at her mother. “Maybe just a scootch too much sodium, I think. And fat. Maybe. Here’s one. Chipped Beef Peanut Butter Cheese Hearts. Okay no, is that real? Is that a real thing? That you ate? Did people eat that?” Jane scanned the list, a bit desperately, as her mother’s shoulders started to shake. “Here’s another appetizer- Cheese “Carrots”, okay no. That’s just soft cheese and Worcestershire molded into the shape of carrots. Ew, really?” She looked at her mother. “Really?”
Her mother shrugged. “Those were actually pretty tasty.”
“Stuffed Avocado Slices.” Jane swallowed hard. “Stuff avocado with cream cheese, sweet pickles, green onion and pineapple. Okay, you know what?” Jane closed the album, her face green. “Maybe we just stick with my magazines. This year.”
“Of course, dear,” her mother said. She spooned up another bite of the chorizo cherry stuffing and smiled, only to herself.
All of those recipes mentioned in the story are very, very real. They’re from Mary Margaret McBride’s Encyclopedia of Cooking 1960 which I found in a massive antique store in Maryland last year. The book is 1531 pages long and every single one of those pages is absolutely amazing. I might snap pics of a few and put them on our Instagram, just because I can and, frankly, I shouldn’t have to keep something as incredible-sounding as Frosted Meat Loaf to myself.
(You know you want to know the ingredients in Salmon Salad Tropical, come on.)
If you glance down at our collection of blogged Thanksgiving recipes, you’ll see we’re no stranger to trying new-fangled, twisty recipes around here. I definitely think it’s fun and worth doing. I also know, fully well, that someone may find this list fifty years from now and be fully and completely horrified by what they find. And so it continues.
For our first recipe this year, we’re taking a classic favorite and shrinking it to simple, sample-size bites with these Mini Pumpkin Pies. Our thinking is keep it small and eat more of absolutely everything on the dessert table.
SKS Thanksgiving Recipes
Traditional Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows | Butternut Squash Soup | Sugar and Spice Cocktail Nuts | No Knead Dinner Rolls | Apple Crumb Pie | Mad Easy Chocolate Pecan Pies | Apple Crisp | Almond Crunch Pumpkin Cheesecake | Multicultural Stuffing | Pear Cornmeal Cake with Rosemary Syrup | Brussels Sprouts with Mint & Anchovy Sauce | Spinach with Fresh Indian Cheese
Thanksgiving Recipes 2014: Mini Pumpkin Pies
Note: You need a 4-inch round cookie cutter, a small leaf-shaped cookie cutter (optional) and a standard-size muffin tin.
1 Package of refrigerated pie crust
1 Can (15 oz) of pumpkin
1 Can (14 oz) of sweetened condensed milk
1 Tablespoon of Pumpkin Pie Spice (make your own!)
Nonstick cooking spray
1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Spray muffin tin with cooking spray and insert 4-inch circles of dough.
3. In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs and pumpkin pie spice until smooth and creamy.
4. Pour into pastry-lined muffin cups, almost to the top. (Top with a pastry leaf if desired.)
5. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes longer or until knife inserted comes out clean.
6. Allow to cool 30 minutes in pan and remove to wire rack to cool for another hour for pumpkin filling to set completely.
*Note from Mary: You will have a little more filling than would fill the 12 muffin cups, bake in a ramekin and add some pastry leaves for a cook’s treat!
Episode 38: Smitty & The Morning After
Petula opened her eyes and didn’t think. She pushed herself off the front seat and kicked open the door. She was halfway out of the old car when something jerked her solidly back and she saw that she was handcuffed to her sister.
Rose was awake and sitting in the front seat. She didn’t even flinch or yelp, as Petula did, when the sharp metal jabbed into her wrist. She tensed her arm and held it still until Petula clamored back into the car. “Are you kidding me?” Petula rattled her wrist, just to annoy her sister, who took another bite of her protein bar and chewed it like a placid cow. “Are you freaking kidding me?”
Rose finished her breakfast calmly. “You’re a flight risk. This was the only way we could both get any sleep.” She slid her aviators on and smiled at her sister. “Did you sleep well, Pet?”
“Where the hell are we?” Petula scowled and reached underneath herself to straighten her clothes with her one free hand. When she looked out the window, all she saw was acres and acres of corn. “Are we still in town?”
“On the border.” Rose leaned back and attempted to stretch the kinks in her neck. “I’m deciding my next move. Would you like to hear my options?”
“Do any of them involve letting me go right now, of my own free will?”
“Then I don’t care.”
“Option 1,” Rose said with a stretch. “Is that I have a buddy in Chicago run a check on you and your aliases. Aliasi? Whatever. To see if any outstanding warrants come up. Civic duty, you understand.”
Rose ignored her and tapped the wheel. “Option 2. I tie you to that tree over there, with the handcuffs, and drop off a note to Mike Newell letting him, and his son, know exactly where you can be found. And then you can have that awkward reunion I was so hoping would happen last night.” She cleared her throat over Petula’s parade of swears and oaths. “Language, Pet. Option 3. I ask you a few questions, you tell me the truth, I verify that you’re telling me the truth, I take something of value from you to verify you’re telling me the truth, I reiterate how I am going to hunt you down and exercise both Options 1 and 2 if you tell me you’re telling the truth but you are not in fact telling me the truth. And then I let you go.”
Petula stared at her sister and wondered what she could possibly want answers to. There was only one possibility and Petula’s mouth went dry at the thought. “I pick Option 2.”
It’s November, one of my most favorite months of the year! It contains America’s greatest holiday and possibly the only holiday that we can be wholly and completely proud of (just don’t mention Black Friday to me and that whole component) thank you very much. It is still fall and lovely, the trees are still dropping their leaves and maybe there’s a little snow? Maybe? When snow is still charming and not to be dreaded or fear like it is in, say, February or March? And gratitude. So much gratitude. November is the month for it and what a wonderful habit it is, to practice and nurture and recognize and celebrate. Here’s a list of things that I’m grateful for right this second:
- The fuzzy sweater I’m wearing.
- Big, thick socks.
- A fully organized, stocked and ready-to-roll kitchen
- This soup, which I ate for dinner with all the fixins, thanks Deb
- This book, which is next to me and I might just carry it around with me for the rest of my natural-born life
- My brother, who I will get to see later for an hour or two, because he lives here now, which is just… so nice to be able to say
- This calendar because it reminds me that Pie is Coming which is from my upcoming novel (not really) Game of Pies
What are you grateful for?
Download your November Desktop and iPhone Calendar here:
For your computer:
Click here for 1920 x 1080 version.
Chocolate Marshmallow Ghost Cake
For the cake
3/4 Cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) of unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
2/3 Cup of unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted, plus more for pans
1 and 1/2 Teaspoons of baking powder
1 Teaspoon of salt
1 and 1/4 Cups of sugar
4 Large eggs
2 Teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
1 Cup of whole milk
Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
16 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
1 Cup of confectioners’ sugar
Make the cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Butter three 6-inch round cake pans. Dust with cocoa powder, and tap out excess; set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
4. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until combined after each addition. Mix in vanilla.
5. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk. Mix until just combined.
6. Divide batter evenly among pans (about 2 cups batter per pan).
7. Bake until a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool in pans.
Make the frosting:
Put cream cheese and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Use immediately.
Make a Marshmallow Ghost
Twist top of one miniature marshmallow into a point by rolling it between your thumb and index finger. Trim all 3 marshmallows, and stick together. Twist top 2 slightly to shape.
With a toothpick, poke holes, and insert sprinkle eyes.
To frost the ghost cake, cover each of two layers with two-thirds cup Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting, and stack the layers; spread remaining frosting over top and sides of assembled cake.
Add marshmallow ghosts. Take picture of your accomplishment. Eat.
Did you know that Nicole and I are in a feud? It’s cool, I don’t think she knows it either (we’re in a feud, Nicole!) We were cool when I moved to Maine because she still lived in Chicago but now that I live in Maine and she’s in Pennsylvania, it is on.
It’s “on” because whoopie pies. (If this were a movie… say, the Leo version of Romeo + Juliet, this would be the part where you see scenes of riots in the streets and mayhem on the flickering screen of a small boxed television). Maine and Pennsylvania are different enough to be perfectly ambivalent about each other’s existence… except for this. Because the states cannot agree on who invented the whoopie pie. (And apparently New Hampshire’s trying to be all, “We invented it too!” but no founder of this blog lives in NH and thus, we’re going to ignore them completely.)
In 2011, the Maine State Legislature considered naming the whoopie pie the official state pie. The proposal received bipartisan support.
Regardless of where you stand on this VITALLY IMPORTANT ISSUE, Nicole and I have declared a truce about the true ownership of the whoopie pie. Mostly because we both have ovens and we can both make them ourselves, wherever we happen to live. And isn’t that what really matters? If the delight of shared foods can’t bring about world peace, how can we expect anything else do the job?
So, here we are. A simple, classic recipe for Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, a soft cookie sandwich with a sweet cream cheese filling, from the both of us, from PA and ME, to you.
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
1 and 1/2 Cups of all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1 and 1/2 Teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice (make your own!)
1/2 Teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 Teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon of kosher salt
1 Cup of pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 Cup of granulated sugar
1/2 Cup of packed light brown sugar
1/2 Cup of canola oil
1 Large egg
1 Teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
4 Ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 and 1/2 Cups of confectioners’ sugar
1/2 Teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
Make the cookies
1. Prep: Heat oven to 350° F with the racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, brown and white sugars, oil, egg, and vanilla until combined. Mix in the flour mixture until just moistened (do not overmix).
4. Drop mounds of the dough (about 2 tablespoons each) onto the baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart.
5. Bake until golden and firm to the touch, 12 to 14 minutes.
6. Let cool for 5 minutes on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the filling
7. With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
Assemble the Whoopie Pies
8. Spread a heaping tablespoon of filling on the flat side of half the cookies. Top with the remaining cookies. If soft, chill for 20 to 25 minutes.
Storage suggestion: Keep the whoopie pies refrigerated, between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container, for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before serving, if desired.
Debby was prepared to tell her son, who was six, many many things. Explaining why their Jack-O-Lanterns lay destroyed on the sidewalk was not one of them.
She stood there with him, tongue-tied as Finn stared wide-eyed down at the remnants of his Wolverine pumpkin (which had taken them over two hours to carve, thank you very much Martha Stewart and no, it was not “as simple and festive as the wink in her child’s eye” or whatever the page said when Deb went to print it) which lay shattered, partly on their front porch step and partly on the sidewalk. “Maybe it fell,” she said to Finn when she could finally think. “Maybe someone was walking by and a gust of wind! Came and knocked it over and…” her words trailed off as Finn looked at her dolefully. “Not buying it?”
Her son, who was sweet and hopeful, enough to make every day with him a fresh twist in her heart, frowned. “Someone smashed it,” he guessed and sounded bewildered.
“Come on,” Deb said with a hand on his shoulder. “Let’s go back inside. Forget the mall. I’ll warm up some cider for us. We’ll watch TV, a movie.” Anything but Wolverine she thought, though it seemed to be on whenever she reached for the remote these days.
But Finn didn’t follow her. Instead, he stepped toward the bits of pumpkin and bent down. “Finn, I’ll do it later-” she started to say but stopped. “What’s that?”
He held a card in his hand and turned it over a few times before she finally took it. And then Deb frowned down at it.
The card had a picture of a pumpkin and a sword hovering over it like the pumpkin was a fat, round mantle. And on the other side, it read in fiery script, “Your pumpkin will be avenged!”
Warm Vanilla Cider
6 cups fresh apple cider (perishable)
2 Tablespoons of packed dark-brown sugar
2 Whole nutmeg seeds
1 Vanilla bean (split and scraped)
6 Ounces of (3/4 cup) bourbon, if desired
1 Cup of finely chopped walnuts
3 Tablespoons of honey
Pinch of coarse salt
1. Make the honeyed walnuts:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine walnuts, honey, and salt in a bowl. Toss to coat, and spread in a single layer onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake, tossing occasionally, until toasted, about 15 minutes. Let cool.
2. Make the cider:
Combine apple cider, dark-brown sugar, nutmeg seeds, and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan. Gently simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and add bourbon if desired. Remove and discard solids. Divide among 6 mugs or heatproof glasses, and top each with a dollop of whipped cream and a few honeyed walnuts.
Callie was not bothered by the fact that she had been born on Halloween. At least, until Halloween came and then she was very much bothered by it.
When she was very small, it wasn’t a problem at all. Her parents made quite a fuss over her birthday and banished the spooky, scary decorations to the basement. She was surrounded by grandparents and aunts, uncles, doting cousins who begrudgingly left their costumes in the car. There was cake and balloons and the only spider webs present were the ones her parents couldn’t reach with the feather duster while preparing for the party.
And then, slowly, Halloween crept in. A cousin defiantly appeared in Callie’s birthday pictures dressed as Spiderman, his arms crossed over his chest. The birthday party got pushed earlier and earlier every year, to make more time for trick-or-treating. Finally, the kiss of death- candy in little bags as the favor with a black spider clinging to the handle. Callie shook her head with disgust but could do nothing, lest she seem ungrateful.
As a young girl, she was resentful of the holiday’s intrusion on her birthday plans. As an adult woman, she shrugged and cast her birthday aside as most do. Some years, she was grateful that Halloween obscured it altogether.
It was her husband TJ who cured the Halloween birthday. For years, he stood back and watched as Callie struggled with how to handle the day. Finally, one birthday, when she complained on the couch during the umpteenth commercial that starred the sexy nurses dancing around with werewolves in front of one of those pop-up Halloween stores, TJ made his play. “Get your coat.” He ignored her protests and ushered her out the door.
It was late and they joined a group of kids on the sidewalk who were making the rounds. “What are we doing?” Callie asked. She folded her arms over her chest and wished she’d thought to put on a bra or at least her nicer sweatpants. TJ whirled her around and pointed to a house down the road. “Knock on the door and demand some candy for your birthday.”
Callie stared at him. “Are you insane?”
TJ gave her a look, the one he reserved for closing deals and proposing marriage after the fourth date. He folded his own arms over his chest and planted his feet. “Indulge me.”
Callie rolled her eyes. “This is nuts.” And she started to turn around and head back inside when she saw a group of nine-year-olds joyfully pocket their candy from the house across the street. She saw herself at nine, sitting at home with a birthday crown on her head, watching the kids walk by in their costumes, and grown woman Callie, lawyer Callie, responsible recycler Callie, marched up to the house those kids had just left and knocked soundly on the door.
Does it make me sound endearing to admit how much I love my birthday? I mean, it’s mostly food related. (Does that help me not sound like a five-year-old diva?)
The Year of 32 (as it will be known) was a big growing year for me. When you get to be a certain age, young things, you don’t grow in height anymore but you do grow in other ways (some years, not so much. What up, 25?!) This year for me was the year that I calmly looked myself in the mirror, smiled and said, “Welp, this is as good as it’s gonna get.” And actually meant it. Food and I, despite our many bumps, are finally at peace.
On every day except my friggin’ birthday. Because BIRTHDAY.
Birthday means pasta, a giant bowl of it. And a cream sauce. And pancetta. And bread. And garlic bread. And wine. And brownies, two kinds (one of them gluten-free! Do I have good friends or what?). And a magical coconut cupcake with a candle in it. And peanut butter and Nutella, by the spoon. And then in cookie form. Because we can do this, we have the technology. BECAUSE BIRTHDAY.
Nutella Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
1 Large egg
3/4 Cup of Nutella
1/4 Cup of creamy peanut butter (recommended: Skippy or Jif)
1/2 Cup of dark brown sugar, packed (light may be substituted)
1 Tablespoon of vanilla extract
1/2 Cup of all-purpose flour
1 Teaspoon of baking soda
pinch of salt
5 to 6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (70% cacao or higher)
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine egg, Nutella, peanut butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and beat on high power to cream ingredients, about 5 minutes (scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary). Note from Averie Cooks: The dough will go from very granular, gritty, and loose to smooth, oily, and well-formed in a large mound. If your dough has not come together or is at all gritty, continue to mix until it smooths out.
2. In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to mixer and incorporate. Another note from Averie: Dough will not look like normal cookie dough and will be tiny balls and flakes that seem almost feathery in the bowl. This is okay. Add the chocolate chunks and beat momentarily to incorporate.
3. Using a medium cookie scoop (about 2 tablespoons) or your hands, scoop out 15 mounds of dough and place them on a large plate. Using your hands, gently squeeze and compact each mound so that it’s tightly packed together. Dough will be both crumbly and oily, but when squeezed, it should stay together. Cover plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours, up to 5 days, before baking.
4. Ready to bake! Preheat oven to 350F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment, or spray with cooking spray; set aside.
5. Space dough 2 inches apart (8 per tray) and bake for 9 to 10 minutes, or until top have just set, even if slightly underbaked in the center. Don’t overbake. Cookies will firm up as they cool, and baking too long will result in cookies that set up too crisp and hard (The cookies shown in the photos were baked for 9 minutes, with trays rotated at the 5-minute mark, and have chewy edges with pillowy, soft centers).
5. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes before removing and transferring to a rack to finish cooling. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Alternatively, unbaked cookie dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.
(Did you miss us? We missed us too. Yay Nicole’s move is done! Yay to having a kitchen again, almost! YAY!)