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.
Download your December Desktop and iPhone Calendar here:
For your computer:
Click here for 1920 x 1080 version.
“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!)
Episode 37: Smitty & The Granddad
Read the First 36 Episodes | Previously on Smitty & The Girl: Frank Mathers Jr. has given his sister and her housemaid quite a shock, arriving in the middle of the night, searching for his long-estranged, cop daughter and not her con artist twin as they expected…
Sylvia awoke in her chambers with a start, the way a person wakes when they’ve just been trapped in a nightmare for hours. She placed one hand on the silk eye wrap she wore over her eyes and instead of removing it to take in the day’s light, she pressed her long, manicured nails against it. She wished she could go back to sleep, sleep through it all.
She didn’t know why her family had decided to arrive back in Cliffwood, and all at the same time, but she knew she’d had a year’s worth of drama in just one epically long day and she was tired. Lord, was she tired. Sylvia Mathers spent the majority of her silvery days swanning around town, perfecting an air of energy and an eccentric lilt, throwing parties, throwing scenes, treating her mansion like an old Hollywood retreat. Now, in her bed, surrounded by silk and cotton, she felt her age settle into her bones.
With a sigh, she removed the wrap from her eyes and they fell on Aggie, who slept slumped on the chaise beside Sylvia’s bed. This was not the first time Aggie had fallen asleep there, in Sylvia’s room. Most often, it was when Sylvia fell ill or drank too much after a party. Truth to be told, Sylvia always thought it was a bit passive aggressive, overkill, that her “loyal maid” would so dramatically position herself at Sylvia’s side, literally, when she was her most vulnerable.
But that morning was different. Sylvia rolled over to her side, felt the sharpness of her hip bones jut into the mattress, and watched Aggie sleep. It wasn’t just Sylvia’s family that had exploded into town, it was Aggie’s family too, the most jagged pieces of her heart had all come flying back at once. Frank was asleep somewhere in the house, probably blissfully unaware of the wreckage that he dragged with him. For a few minutes, Sylvia felt the full weight of the night’s events settle on her and her heart was heavy with it. When she arose from the bed, she would take charge of it all, she knew. She would summon the steel that had settled into her aging bones and protect herself, her and Aggie both. But for a few minutes, there was just silence, Aggie’s heavy breathing and the day’s breaking light.
Happy Fall, party people! Welcome to my most favorite month. Crunchy apples, crisp air, sweater coziness. The only thing I regret about this time of year is how badly I want to burrow under blankets when the alarm goes off in the morning. (Could I schedule some time every morning on my work calendar that just says “Burrowing” and get away with it?)
It feels like it’s been forever. We promise to have new recipes to share this month as Nicole settles into her new life in Philly (the move is over! They’re home!) and unpacks her many, many, many kitchen supplies (I assume that’s being unpacked first, right Nicole?). In the meantime, you can see what we’re cooking and baking every week here and here.
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6 and a half years ago Mike and I packed up our life in Philadelphia and made the move to Chicago, a city we knew very little about. We moved here for design jobs and didn’t know a single person in the entire state (probably the entire midwest actually). Next week we say goodbye to Chicago as we move back to the Philly area. We’re excited to be back on the east coast, close to family and old friends, and back where our roots are, but we owe a lot to Chicago and it’s hard to say goodbye.
Mike and I spent the majority of our time together as a couple in Chicago, we got engaged here, planned our wedding, spent the first 2 years of our marriage here and got our dog Lola here. We jumped around to a lot of different design jobs and met incredible people along the way. Judi and I met at one of those design jobs and started SKS on our lunch breaks. After 4 years of working at different design jobs, Mike and I went on our own and are now working for ourselves, and while we work way too many nights and weekends, it’s incredibly rewarding and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Chicago has given us amazing friendships and great work opportunities and we’re forever indebted to the city for that.
We’re excited for what’s next though. We bought a house, we’re moving to the suburbs, and I turn 30 next month, it’s all very strange and I officially feel like a grown up. We’re ready for some peace and quiet though and anxious to get the next chapter started.
Top food/drink places we’ll miss in Chicago:
1. Rangoli Indian Food
We eat here at least once a week, it’s by far my favorite food in Chicago. It the best food I’ve ever eaten actually.
2. Jeni’s Ice Cream
Free samples of the best ice cream on earth.
4. Mana Food Bar
Mana is a tiny vegetarian restaurant with delicious food and cocktails.
5. Violet Hour
When we want a classy cocktail I like to sit at the bar at Violet Hour and watch them make it. It’s dark and quiet inside, and the bartenders know what they’re doing.
6. The Aberdeen Tap
The Aberdeen Tap is our neighborhood spot. We’ve had many going away parties there (including our own next week), many late night dinners, afternoon drinks on the patio, and brainstorming sessions. And their fried mac & cheese squares and hushpuppies are going to be missed.
Episode 36: Smitty & The Child
Read the First 35 Episodes | Previously on Smitty & The Girl: 15 year old Freddy went for a late night bike ride and instead got the shock of his life- meeting his long-lost aunt and mother on the side of the road… Now they want to have a middle-of-the-night reunion with his dad.
The first time Freddy realized he didn’t have a mother, he was four-years-old. The kindergarten teacher asked them to draw a picture of their family and she ticked off names like reading off a grocery list- “Mom, Dad, brothers, sisters, pets, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, anyone you call family!” And then she wandered back to her desk, not knowing that she had just set a small bomb off in little Freddy’s head.
When his father, who worked nights then as a cashier in the supermarket, came to pick him up from school, Freddy asked him where his mother was. He had asked around and had determined quickly that he was supposed to have one. His father stopped walking and Freddy stopped too, on the sidewalk. He watched his young, handsome father stare down the road, not sure how to reply. “Some mothers leave,” his father said finally and he tightened his hold on Freddy’s hand and they headed home.
He asked his grandmother once. He was eleven. The question had lingered in the back of his mind, always there, and finally old enough to snoop around drawers and closets, Freddy had done his share of investigating. When the search proved fruitless, even the earlier pictures of him featured his father and grandmother, he waited until his father had set off on his shift at the bar and cornered, literally, his grandmother in the kitchen where she stood over the sink, washing potatoes for supper. “Who is my mother?” And when she froze, by then he surmised that it was a family trait, Freddy filled the silence with the questions that had surfaced and re-surfaced over the years. “Is she dead? Did she leave me? What was her name? Does she ask about me?”
His grandmother turned off the water, dried off her hands and walked to the phone. Freddy started to feel himself get angry, irritation rising up in him like a well, but she spoke to his father. She said, “Mike, we’re coming over.” And she grabbed her keys and took Freddy and they went to the bar, because his father had just started the job and wouldn’t be able to come home until his shift was over, she told Freddy.
They went into the storeroom of the bar and Freddy sat on a box of pickles and his father said, “Her name is Petula Mathers. We met in high school. She’s alive. She wasn’t ready to be a mother and that’s why she left town. I have not heard from her since, not once, but I’m sure she loves you, Freddy, because you are completely and thoroughly impossible not to love.”
Apologies for the delay! Nicole is moving! She and her family will be leaving Chicago soon and heading back to the East Coast. Get ready, Philly-area…
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When Chrissy heard the plan, she balked. Her mother was not surprised.
They stood at opposite sides of the kitchen island, at a standstill. Marguerite sipped her coffee and was calm. Chrissy gripped her phone and was not. “I don’t want to go to that.”
She studied her daughter and did what all mothers do- she pretended like she was not talking to her four-year-old, precocious angel fluff with her pig-tails and wide, blue eyes and was, in fact, addressing her fifteen-year-old angel fluff, in all her glory. Her skinny jeans, her carefully chosen slouchy, long-sleeved shirt, her thrift store scarf wrapped around her neck, slouchy hat, smudged eyeliner and her unpolished nails wrapped tightly around her phone. Chrissy’s three last requests to her parents were to be referred to by her given name, Christine; for leave to take a knitting class downtown on Thursday afternoons; for a pair of headphones that were so large and so expensive that Marguerite had been afraid to even handle them at the store when the bored saleskid led her to them. “Why not?”
She had thought this would be a no-brainer. The family would go up to the roof at three in the morning that night, a school night no less, and watch the Borealis Spectralis, which appeared every four years in the sky over New York. But Chrissy recoiled.
“Everyone is doing that,” she said pointedly. “Everyone. It’s been in the news for weeks, everybody’s talking about it, everybody’s going up there. It’s lame and I’m not going.”
Marguerite had not gotten the headphones. She had said yes to the knitting lessons. She called her daughter Christine to her daughter’s face and called her Chrissy everywhere else. On this, she was unmoveable. “I’m waking you up at 2:55,” she told her daughter and she sounded calm but her angel fluff’s expression made her grip the edge of the kitchen island. “I’ll carry you over my shoulder if I have to. Have a great day.”
They didn’t speak for the rest of it. Chrissy fumed and typed furiously on her phone. She stared at the walls of the living room, refusing to do her sulking in private. And, at 2:55am, she appeared, fully dressed, in the hallway as Marguerite, Jim and their younger daughter Brianna were preparing to depart.
She said nothing to her mother as they headed out of their apartment and joined the small crowd of neighbors who all shuffled up, yawns among them, to the stairwell and headed up, a fire drill in reverse. She said nothing to them as they claimed their space in the corner of the roof, which Marguerite had claimed herself earlier that day with chairs and potted plants and even a little rope to block it off. “Can you do that?” Jim asked, impressed, and Marguerite murmured back, “It’s amazing the respect people have for rope.”
They settled into their chairs and, for a second, she thought her daughter was asleep in hers with her head tilted back, her phone clutched in her hands. Brianna yawned, already dozing, and moved from her chair to Marguerite’s side, nestled in beside her, forgetting to be nine and too big for such things. Marguerite held on to her with both arms. And then it started, and everyone looked up.
The lights danced across the sky, all colors. For one night, the lights in the sky were brighter than the lights of New York. The neighbors fell silent across the roof. Marguerite’s family looked up too, absolutely all of them, silenced by the sky.
Here’s to the waning days of summer.
Here’s to long weekends.
Here’s to purple fruit with crumbly crusts.
Here’s to you too.
For the Filling
3 Pounds of peaches, nectarines or plums, each cut into 6 wedges (we used plums)
1/2 Cup of granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/4 Teaspoon of kosher salt
1 Tablespoon of kirsch (clear cherry brandy) or other fruit brandy (optional)
Topping and Assembly
1/2 Cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 Teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 Teaspoon of kosher salt
1/2 Cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, room temperature
3 and 1/2 ounces of almond paste
1/2 Cup of granulated sugar
3 Large eggs, room temperature
1/2 Cup of sliced almonds
Powdered sugar and vanilla ice cream (for serving)
1. In a large bowl, toss together the fruit with granulated sugar, flour, salt and kirsch (if using). Transfer to a 13 x 9″ baking dish and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt.
4. In the bowl of a stand or electric mixer, beat butter, almond paste and granulated sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend after each. Mix in dry ingredients.
5. Drop dollops of batter over fruit (batter will even out during baking). Sprinkle with almonds. Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until topping is golden brown and fruit juices are thick and bubbling. 50-60 minutes.
6. Let cobbler sit at least 20 minutes before serving. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with ice cream.