Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"magic" sugar cookies

I have a secret. This cookie recipe, this wonderful, glorious cookie recipe, produces the world's most magical sugar cookies. I have witnessed grown men groan with delight eating these cookies, foodies swoon at the sweet-salty combo, and children steal the cookie plate and hide it away so they can eat the cookies all by themselves without any adults stealing more.

The secret? In addition to being the most delicious cookies on the face of the planet, it's probably the easiest cookie recipe in the world. No fancy ingredients, unless you go for that sort of thing (I'm an organic and cage-free kind of girl myself). No fancy cooking technique. No fancy equipment that you buy for one recipe once, and then glare at for 5 years while it takes up now unusable kitchen counter space. And once you have brought these cookies to a party, you will only ever be asked to bring these cookies, ever again. Get ready, friends. These are not just any cookies. They are magic.

You know what else is magical? Being part of a cookie swap. Lindsay and Julie are the organizers of The Great Food Blogger Cookie swap, and I am delighted to have been part of the baking-mailing-receiving cookie crowd for my second year (check out last year's recipe, Almond Butter Cookies). This year, I sent these cookies to three wonderful people, Lindsay at ItzLinz, Brittany at A Healthy Slice of Life, and Laurie at Crunchy Gooey, and received sweet sweets from three wonderful bloggers:

cinnamon cookie brittle from Shari at

the most addictive chocolate cookie peppermint sandwiches I've ever had from Cait at

and salty-sweet chocolate pistachio cookies from Mallory at

Want to send cookies to your friends too? Try any of the above recipes, or the magic cookie recipe below!


1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar, preferably raw cane sugar, though regular white will work just fine
one palmful (about 1/8 of a cup) brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
generous 1/4 teaspoon salt


1. Preheat the oven to 330 degrees, and grab two baking sheets.

2. Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside. If you go weak in the knees for a saltier-sweet combination, feel free to sprinkle a smidge more salt in the mix.

3. Cream the butter and sugars together in a stand mixer. Don't be shy about beating the butter into submission: the creamier and fluffier the butter, the fluffier the cookie.

4. Add the eggs and vanilla, and stir it all up.

5. Fold in the dry ingredients, mixing until everything looks evenly distributed.

6. Roll the dough into small balls about the size of the quarter and stick them on a baking sheet - I usually get 30-36 cookies per sheet.

7. Stick the cookies in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until the dough is just cooked.

8. Pull them out of the oven, let cool for 3-4 minutes, then move the cookies to a rack to finishing cooling.

9. Eat. Eat. Eat more.

Pro tip: Hide the cookie jar. If you don't, your friends/family/happy goblins might eat them while your back is turned!

Monday, October 7, 2013

honey chai peanut butter

I'm not sure if there are enough words to sing the praises and popularity of peanut butter. People swoon a little when they talk about eating peanut butter, making faces akin to the strangely happy women on flavored yogurt commercials. A friend of mine is nicknamed "peanut butter." People eat it for comfort, for dessert, for lunch, for a snack, the list goes on.

And yet it's also one of those foods that have a ton of additives. Check out the ingredients list on most brand names, and you'll see extra salt, extra preservatives, extra sugar, and extra hydrogenated oil. You can always search out the peanuts-only brands, but they're usually a little more expensive, can be harder to find, and may or may not taste so great. So why not make your own?

And while you're making your own, why not make it fall-flavored with a chai spice blend and some honey? The spices give warmth to the creamy, sticky peanut butter, and the honey adds some sweetness. My chai spice blend is an amalgamation of several chai ingredients lists that google graciously provided. If you're feeling brave, you could always throw in some coriander or white pepper, which are both commonly found in chai tea mixes. For the peanuts, you can either roast your own, or buy peanuts already roasted - you'll find them in the bulk section of your supermarket.

Honey Chai Peanut Butter


2 cups of roasted, unsalted peanuts

2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger
optional - 1/8 tsp cardamom (cardamom can be an overpowering spice - smell and make sure you like it before you add it!)
salt to taste

2 tbsp honey


1. Measure the spices, and mix thoroughly, then set aside.
2. In a food processor, whirl the peanuts until they turn into a coarse flour texture.
3. Add the spices and then continue running the food processor. The peanuts will eventually turn into a giant peanut ball - keep mixing! The peanut ball will smooth out into peanut butter. Mix for a few minutes past the smoothness, and the peanuts will keep releasing their oil, softening into peanut butter.
4. Unplug your food processor, then by hand, mix in the honey. If you mix it in with the blade, the consistency of the peanut butter gets a little funny.

Alton Brown says that peanut butter can last in the fridge up to two months. I can promise you'll never find out - it will be scarfed up way before expiration!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sweet and Savory: Olive Oil Bread

My baking music is a mix of Adele, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Bareilles, Amy Winehouse, and other smoky voiced soul singers that have me bopping around the kitchen, stirring and blending on the beat. Last night, in part to protest the hundred degree heat (it's September! doesn't that mean sweaters?!) and in part because I have an early meeting and feel that my team might need sustenance, I decided to make a sweet-savory olive oil bread, perfumed with orange and lemon zests, and stuffed with almonds - a dense bread, almost a cake, with strong flavors that tells me fall is on the way. It's rich, delicious, and autumnal, and the recipe itself was inspired (with several twists in my kitchen) by smitten kitchen's Olive Oil Muffins.

Sweet-Savory Olive Oil Bread

1 cup white flour
3/4 cup almond flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sliced and toasted almonds

4 eggs
1 (heaping) cup of sugar
zest of a lemon
zest of an orange
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons whole milk
3/4 cup olive oil

optional: a dash of nutmeg, dried fruit, diced apples

1. Set the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix the dry ingredients, including the spices and nuts, together and set aside.
3. Blend together the eggs, sugar, and fruit zests, blending until the three are uniform.
4. Add the vinegar and milk, stirring thoroughly.
5. Pour the olive oil in to the mixture slowly, letting the ingredients become acquainted gently.
6. Grab the dry ingredients, and gradually fold them in until everything is mixed together.
7. Pour into a cake pan and bake for 50 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

cooking as civil disobedience

I came across this opinion piece on a blog in the New York Times a few days ago, and I love the idea of a young boy cooking as "civil disobedience." It's still an act of disobedience in these days - there's so much easily available pre-made food in a grocery store that doing anything from scratch involves more time and effort than picking up a cake mix or buying a frozen pizza.  The daily, sometimes repetitive work in your own kitchen is deeply undervalued as a way to spend free time, especially as a busy woman, when there are so many shortcuts - though I would argue that the nutritional quality of those "timesavers" eliminates their ultimate value. And there's something so satisfying in creating the meal out of its real components, being a wizard whipping disparate elements into the combined whole, that I doubt I'll step out of the kitchen any time soon.

stand out against the crowd!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

neighborhood bounty: how to find fruit

"Want one?"

My coworker careened around the office offering fresh figs to anyone in his path. The figs were from a fruit tree on his property, and he didn't know what to do with the excess except share the bounty. He noted my expression while eyeing the fresh figs, and either out of generosity or self-preservation, said that any not eaten would be mine to take home.

Generosity and fresh picked fruit at the end of a day crunching nothing but numbers? Small kindnesses like that can change the shape of an afternoon. 

It made me wonder, though, how many more people are out there with fruit on their hands, fruit that they can't possibly eat or use? Fruit that could do so much good to the health of a community where the expense is prohibitive. 

And, as it turns out, there's a website for that - It shows both where public trees are bearing fruit and where kind individuals with fruit to spare will give you the bounty of their harvest - for free! It's a little step, but one that has me smiling inside to out, seeing the community-food connection thrive on the openhandedness of its members.

And my dessert tonight? Care of my kindly coworker, I ate honey-fried figs with greek yogurt and almonds. Don't try to tell me your mouth isn't watering. In the spirit of community, though, if you come to my house, you can have some.

Honey-Fried Figs
Fresh figs, cut in four pieces

Heat butter in a pan. Add figs, and swirl in honey. Keep stirring for about 3-4 minutes until figs are tender. Serve with something creamy (greek yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, fresh whipped cream) and something crunchy (almonds, walnuts, toasted sesame seeds). Get fancy and add herbs if you feel like it, or stay homey and eat as is.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

the recipe generator

Mountains of fresh, farmer's market produce overwhelming you? Check out this recipe generator from Mark Bittman at the NYTimes - it's inventive, seasonal, and gave me some neat dinner-inspirations for the week.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

zucchini: 20 ways to chow down on squash

Zucchini and summer squash, like June, are busting out all over, and farmers markets are abundantly displaying their green, yellow, and dappled best. Like a good farm-to-table disciple, I am eating zucchini in droves, and therefore am in need of solutions to the piles of squash that now sit dreamily on my kitchen table. The ideas and recipes below traverse the sweet-savory spectrum, and feel free to chime in with any summer zucchini favorites!


1. Fritters: Grate zucchini, mix it with egg, flour, salt, lemon, and garlic. Form palm sized patties, and fry them up or bake them.

2. Frittata: Saute zucchini and onions in an oven-safe saute pan (cast iron works beautifully). Pour a mixture of eggs with a dab of cream and a smidge of salt over the vegetables and let it cook for a few minutes. Throw in some goat cheese or mozzarella. Transfer to the oven. (Want more detailed instructions?)

3. Tartare: Slice the zucchini paper thin, and drizzle with olive oil and sea salt. Mmmm...

4. Pizza: Saute the zucchini, and layer on pizza dough with goat cheese, pears, and caramelized onions.

5. Salad: Roast chunks of zucchini, and toss with onions (raw or roasted), tomatoes, and corn.

6. Stuffed: Hollowed out, roasted a bit, then stuffed with either more vegetables or a mix of ground turkey and vegetables (early recipe - and photographs! - here)

7. Sauteed: With olive oil, basil on top. 'Nough said.

8. Gratined: Layer zucchini and cheese in a casserole dish. Bake. Eat.

9. Sauced: Cooked down with tomatoes and onions, and served over pasta.

10. Fried: Slice thinly, coat with an egg and flour batter, fry, drain, and serve hot.

11. Lasagne: Zucchini strips in place of lasagna noodles in your favorite recipe.

12. Towering: Layer roast zucchini with mozzarella, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and top with basil.

13. Roll-ups: Slice zucchini thinly and lengthwise, and wrap it around the filling of your choice (prosciutto and arugula, perhaps?)

14. Crostini: Cut zucchini as you would slice a baguette, and top with dollops of cheese, or caramelized onions, or corn salad, or chopped tomatoes and basil...

15. Soup: Like squash soup, use zucchini for a milder, sweeter soup.


1. Bread: 2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon each of baking powder and baking soda, 2/3 cup light brown sugar, 1/4 cup white sugar, pinch of salt. Stir that all together, then grate the zucchini, mix it in, and add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and vanilla. Pour 1/2 cup olive oil into two eggs, beat them together, then add 2 teaspoons milk or half and half. Mix the wet into the dry, stirring constantly. Butter a bread tin (or a pie plate if you're like me and don't own a bread tin), and bake at 350 for 60-70 minutes. This recipe is a riff on a recipe from the gorgeous Home Made Summer.

2. Muffins or Cupcakes: the above recipe, but feel free to switch out the dried fruit for dark chocolate chips. Add a sugar topped coating or vanilla icing for cupcakes.

3. Whoopie Pies: I have to give a shout out to Not Without Salt for this recipe. I've toyed around with flavors using this as a base recipe, and her instructions for whoopie pie filling are just about perfect.

4. Pie: A savory/sweet combo, use a tart shell, fill with cheese and thinly sliced zucchini.

5. Cookies: Add in grated zucchini, chocolate chips, and walnuts, and you get a tender cookie.

Bon zucchini appetit!

Monday, June 17, 2013

and now, celebrating National Vegetable Day!

"Eat your vegetables." How many kids shudder hearing that phrase? It's a threat, one of those phrases that definitely has a second, unspoken clause... "Or else!" Sometimes, the threat isn't even the silent kind - "Eat your vegetables or you don't get to go play!" or "You don't get to leave the table until you eat your vegetables!" Even if your parents never spoke those words, the scenario is often viewed in movies or commercials or tv (ie our contemporary culture) as a vegetable-eating martyrdom, a bizarre ritual of childhood that must be completed in order to go on with the rest of the day. The impending green doom of the dinner hour.

When I was younger, I never particularly liked vegetables either. The much-maligned greens were always last on my plate, and second helpings of mushy vegetables unheard of. Frozen vegetables made me wince and gag, with their icy water pooling in the bottom of the bowl. Salad was mostly tasteless, unless smothered in blue cheese dressing. Tomatoes were almost acceptable, but then again, tomatoes are fruit.

In part, I'm sure it's in our tastebuds. The terrifying and fascinating mapping of taste presented in Salt, Sugar, Fat outlined how children develop a taste and longing for the eponymous three things, and how salt and sugar levels, when lowered in products, don't give the same taste satisfaction to kids. If they aren't imminently delectable, kids don't beg for them, meaning sales plummet. Vegetables don't come with that kind of taste built in - by turns mellow, bitter, crunchy, faintly sweet,"tasteless," and with little to no fat to make a smooth taste, we are not genetically primed to crave these vitamin-, mineral-, and all-around-good-stuff-packed powerhouses over a Twix bar.

And yet. Even though it's not necessarily a longed-for taste at first, when you start cooking more vegetables, and eating more fresh things, it feels good. Not just in that I'm-healthy-and-oh-so-much-more-superior snobby style, but a craving develops for the various tastes in and of themselves - they "grow" on you (please pardon my pun). I can hardly believe the anti-veggite child in me can write this, but I think the vegetable deserves poetic odes. Complex flavors and unlimited variety now have me skipping from vegetable booth to vegetable booth at my farmer's market, or careening around the vibrant stacks at Whole Foods, scooping up this and that, trying out tastes that just aren't found anywhere else. It makes me more adventurous, too, challenging me to mine the internet for unusual greens and what to do with them. Garlic scapes? Not a problem, I can make scape-almond pesto! Kohlrabi? Under control. 3 varieties of kale? To the internet to see what spices and sauces play off each variety! My anti-veggite childhood self may just have grown into earth-and-vegetable-adoring maturity.

And so, in honor of National Vegetable Day, I recommend amending the time honored admonishment: "Eat your vegetables because you like them, and ENJOY!"

Monday, May 27, 2013

market day special: strawberry-rhubarb soup

I volunteer at the Headhouse Farmer's Market, one of my favorite places to be on a Sunday morning in Philadelphia. The volunteer stand is directly across from one of the vegetable stands, and I have spent the past three weeks staring at a table heaped high with asparagus, lettuces, string beans, pints of strawberries and stacks of tart rhubarb. I brought an armful of rhubarb stalks home with me last week and made a pie, and with my leftover rhubarb, I started a compote. Misreading and ignoring directions galore from multiple recipes, I ended up with a liquid-full substance that refused to gel. But it was delicious. Really, really delicious. And so, I turned it into soup. This can be either a sweet first course or a cool dessert for a warm spring night.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Soup
makes 4 larger bowls or 8 smaller ramekins

the soup ingredients:
8-10 stalks of rhubarb (about 4 cups), diced into half-inch pieces
1 pint of strawberries (2 generous cups), sliced
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
zest and juice from an orange
3/4 cup of water

suggested garnishes:
whipped cream
mint or basil
toasted almonds
balsamic vinegar

Mix all of the ingredients together, except for the water. Let the strawberries and rhubarb soak up the sugar for about 30-40 minutes, tossing occasionally.  After a good long soak, add water and turn the heat on. Bring the mixture to a boil, then let it simmer for 10 minutes, turn off the heat, and let it cool. Once cool, either use an immersion blender or a food processor to mix the soup. Strain through a sieve if you don't like finding chunks of strawberry seeds in your soup, or not for a homier consistency.  Serve the soup either chilled or at room temperature with the garnish of your choice - I choose homemade whipped cream and cinnamon every time. Sip slowly and savor spring turning into summer.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

10 simple spring suppers

Ever wish you had a dinner fairy? A shimmering apparition to cook your food and whip up sauces? If such a creature existed, I would gladly import him or her into my kitchen, but in the meantime, I've compiled a list of my I-don't-want-to-cook-dinner-right-now healthful-easy recipes. Since it's spring time, I've stuck to spring-y foods, things you can get cheaply in season right now, and alternated between hot and cold dishes, since the fickle evenings are alternately cool and sweltering. Look for a summer list in a month or two!

1. Asparagus Scramble: mix up eggs, cream, and salt in a bowl. Cut up asparagus and scallions and saute for 1-2 minutes in butter - they should still be crispy fresh when you add the eggs. Add the egg mixture and cook slowly over medium heat, constantly stirring in slow circles to get fluffy eggs. Dollop with goat cheese.

2. Mock Pad Thai: mix peanut butter, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, salt, and sugar together. Toss in chunks of vegetables (cucumber, cabbage, broccoli, onion, peas, whatever's on hand) and chicken or shrimp (or not, if you prefer to be vegan for the evening), and serve over lettuce or pasta.

3. Ethiopian lentils: boil red lentils in a 1:3 lentils:water ratio (ie, 1 cup of lentils and 3 cups of water) for 30 minutes. Add berbere spice mix and a little salt and cook for 10 minutes more. If you don't want to toast the spices, don't worry - mixing them together without toasting works just as well, and you can leave out a spice or two if you're missing it (I almost never have fenugreek). Serve with injera or naan.

4. Slice an eggplant in half lengthwise. Make diagonal cross-hatches in the eggplant flesh, and salt the eggplant. Go read a book for 30 minutes (I'm reading As Always, Julia and just finished Salt Sugar Fat). Come back, squeeze out the eggplant juices. Cut up a clove or two of garlic and slip the garlic into the eggplant cross-hatches. Put some olive oil and rosemary or thyme on top of the eggplant flesh, flip the eggplant flesh side down onto a baking dish, and roast at 400 degrees for an hour. Once out of the over, let cool for a bit before you serve. Eat a green salad with it!

5. Green eggs, ham optional: boil green lentils in a 1:2, lentil:water ratio (ie, 1 cup of lentils to 2 cups of water) for approximately 45 minutes (stick a bay leaf in if you have it). Add salt, olive oil, and either some lemon juice or vinegar. Add a fried egg on top. If you're feeling porcine, dice up some ham, bacon, or pancetta to go with it. Or, crumble some feta on there for a kick.

6. Caesar with a Twist: cut Tuscan kale into bite sized pieces, and top with parmesan, anchovies, olive oil, lemon wedges, and bread crumbs.

7. Root Vegetable Rockout: roast some beets (and see my first blog post from last year!), once cooled, toss with cleaned and cut radishes and carrots, olive oil, salt, and vinegar. Add some feta if you're feeling fancy.

8. Sweet Potato Swoon: roast sweet potatoes at 425 degrees for about an hour, or til you can stick a fork easily in the potato. Pull out of the oven and let rest about 5 minutes. While it's resting, saute a green vegetable (broccoli, spinach, snap peas, kale). Cut open the potato, and top with the greens. If you have cheese or leftover chicken in the fridge, top it up. Or, if you're feeling saucy, add salsa to the potato and greens for a Mexican flavor.

9. Italian Stallion: arugula topped with shaved parmesan and olive oil. Add prosciutto for a "kick."

10. Bean Bonanza: if you're super well prepared, stick black beans in water before you go to bed. If you forgot, stick them in cold water before you go to work. Come home, drain the beans, and boil them for an hour or so. Once they've finished boiling, heat a saute pan with olive oil and get some onions and garlic going. And the boiled beans and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes. Grate some cheddar on top, grab salsa and an avocado, and dig in.

Cherry Blossoms sing "SPRING!"

Thursday, April 11, 2013

sugar shock

I love sweet things. I don't think I'm alone in my sugar-happiness, but recently, my stars are aligning to bring sugar awareness to the forefront of what I eat. When I make a meal or a dessert, I am aware of how much sugar I add, and aware of just what it is that I consume. It's harder to realize, I think, how much sugar might be in every day products, like baked beans or hot dog buns. And that's where this awesome video from buzzfeed comes in - I saw it on Mark Bittman's excellent blog on the NYTimes.  Take a look and a listen, and share your thoughts!

And if you liked that video, I highly recommend Michael Moss' Sugar Salt Fat, an eye-opening story of how food companies use knowledge of our taste buds to create food that you literally can't stop eating.

What are your crave-able foods? And is it the taste you crave, or is it the memory of an experience eating the food?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

lettuce, grow!

I have a secret.

I love vegetables and fruits and all things verdant, but I cannot grow them. I mean that quite literally. I have never been successful at maintaining a plant - each and every one ends up yellowed, browned, dried-out, or drowned with my futile attempts at love and water.

But yesterday, I went shopping for plants - lettuces and herbs. I may just be Charlie Brown, continually kicking the football of plant hope, but here I am again, striving to cultivate green things.  There is hope in these seedlings, young things, stretching towards the light. I can't help but invest in the promise of the seeds, even though their failure to launch is an almost absolute.

Almost. See? I can't even believe with my whole heart that these seedlings will not turn in to full vegetables with some careful tending. And the end result, reaping the joy of healthy green energy from my window ledge garden, outweighed the memory of many past garden fiascos.  My down-to-earth sensibility succumbed, sending me soaring for the potential of a soon-to-be-garden.

There is a good chance that I will be crushed when my lettuce wilts and my rosemary crumbles (again), but I will start with hope, and proceed accordingly.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

apple carrot muffins: cinnamon, spice, and everything nice

Occasionally, I am forgetful. For instance, a few weeks ago, I saw a bunch of beautiful locally grown carrots in my supermarket, and I snatched them up, conveniently un-remembering that I was picking up my community supported agriculture order (the super fabulous Winter Harvest CSA) later that evening.  And that I had a giant bunch of carrots in my CSA order. Oops.

I don't like to waste food, so I immediately started planning all things carrot: soups, salads, roasted, and with lentils. And then I looked over at the apples nestled next to the carrots in my CSA bag, and started thinking about dessert.  I tried them in a cake, and although it was good, it wasn't quite sweet enough, and so I experimented, and arrived at these spice-full, tender, moist apple-carrot muffins.

Spiced Apple-Carrot Muffins
makes one dozen

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ginger (optional)

2 tablespoons butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup Greek yogurt (I use 2%)
2 eggs
1/4 cup 1% milk

1 medium apple, grated (about 2/3 of a cup)
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated (about 2/3 of a cup)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Butter a muffin pan or fill it with cute cupcake liners.

3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl, add the spices, mix, and set  aside.

4. In a separate bowl, mix together the butter and sugar, forming a chunky paste. Add the yogurt, mixing well to form a smoother paste, then the eggs and the milk, stirring well at each step.

5. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, ensuring everything is thoroughly combined.

6. Add the grated apple and carrots, stirring to combine fully.

7. Pour the batter into the lined or buttered muffin pan, filling each muffin about 2/3 of the way full.

8. Bake for 22-26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

The muffins can be served warm, and hold up well in the fridge for 5-6 days after baking. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

cheddar cheese and chewy chive biscuits

Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain was my hero and first crush. I didn't really know the difference between Gene Kelly and Don Lockwood, but I thought both were dreamy, particularly because they sang and danced and were movie stars.  Quotations from the movie are etched into my lexicon, and dances and images from the movie are imprinted in my mind. And a few weeks ago, thinking about savory biscuits, a lightbulb flashed above my head when I remembered a tongue twister from the movie. "Moses Supposes" was dancing about my brain, and inspired cheddar cheese and chive biscuits to became a part of my lunch. Several batches later, I found the "shimmering, glowing" biscuit combination, a light, fluffy, cheese-filled concoction best eaten straight out of the oven.

Cheddar Cheese-Chive Biscuits
makes 10-12 biscuits


1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
3 tablespoons cold butter, diced
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I use 2%)
2/3 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chives, thinly diced

1. Preheat the over to 375 degrees.

2. Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar.

3. Toss in the diced butter, stirring just until the mixture is pleasantly lumpy.

4. Add in the Greek yogurt, mix, then add the cheddar cheese and chives and mix again.

5. Mold the dough into a ball, then roll it out to about an inch thickness.

6. Using either a floured cookie cutter or something with about a two inch diameter (I used a mason jar), cut out circles of dough, and place on top of a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet. You will have between 10 and 12 biscuits.

7. Bake the biscuits for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden brown.

8. Dance and recite tongue twisters while eating.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

ready, set, swap!

Mayhem. Men and women running around with food products tucked under their arms, running up to strangers and haggling for other food items. Was it a run on the food supply before another apocalyptic weather disaster?

No.  It was a food swap.

Last Monday, I went over to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, ten jars of cinnamon-pear jam in tow in my canning pot. I was (very) early, on edge about finding a parking spot and feeling very much like a first date: anticipatory, nervous, highly aware of my own exaggeratedly awkward tendencies when confronted with strangers.  In a way, this was my first public date with food. I've had friends over to my house for dinner frequently, cooked for my family, brought food to my office. But friends and family and work colleagues are appreciative of the gesture of bringing food, and are uniformly nice about the food, whether it is one of my successful concoctions or one of my more "interesting" dishes. Dates, one hopes, are nice, but ultimately, they do not need to like you (or your jam).

So what is this food swap that had my confidence playing hide-and-seek? It's sort of like a homecook and foodie extravaganza. At this Philly Food Swap, about 50 people brought homemade foods and crafts to trade with each other. The rules are simple: bring something you want to trade, and when the hosts say "GO!", start trading.

The preparation, however, is complex, as is the strategizing. Each participant was set up either on a table or on top of the short bookshelves. These foodies know how to make their food look good - display boxes, posters, beautiful tags, nice packaging, and, best of all, samples. Ever wonder what it's like to taste 50 different artisanal products? Heaven. We got an hour to taste before we swapped, and I meandered about soaking in the variety of flavors and products. From the simple and scrumptious to the inspirationally unusual and delicious combinations, the tastes were a story map of what a good home cook can do.

Beyond the tasting, however, was the strategy: what do I want the most, and will anyone trade for my jam? And that was the part that had me nervous. I walked around, seeing cards on the table with the name of the product, and the name of an interested swapper underneath. Was my card getting full and would anyone take my jam home for the night?

I strolled with a fake casual air back to my corner to check my card, and... yes! There were people who wanted to trade! The organizers opened the swapping, and hungry foodies began swarming. Grabbing an armful of jams, I started following my fellow food lovers as they zoomed from table to table, offering and receiving gifts.  I scored with sauerkraut, preserved kumquats, homemade butter, sweet jams, spicy jam, hot peppers, orange-cardamom ice cream, fudge, and chicken-pork belly sausage.

Happy, sated, and exhausted, I packed my canning pot once more with this abundance, and headed back home. One week later, I'm still making my way through the jams, butters, and kumquats, though the fudge and ice cream were long gone by the next morning. Every time I open another container, I start smiling. Cooking and eating are wonderful, but add on the joy of sharing completely unique food that you couldn't find in a store? Food-lovers bliss.