a recent discovery

carrot slaw

It’s not like I have something against healthy food. Seriously. In fact, there are times—like at the end of last week, in which I’d shared an entire dozen doughnuts with a friend, ordered things like toasted (and breaded) ravioli and huge slices of pizza, eaten meat in my lunches and dinners, gotten takeout more often than I’d brought brown-bagged meals (and had the accompanying bloating and heaviness to prove it)—where something fresh and healthy is all I do want. I know it may not seem like it around here, where I’ve posted dozens of cookie recipes and, lately, an onslaught of cakes, but I swear it’s true.

It’s just—I’m going to be honest—I don’t like eating things that don’t taste good. Is that so terrible? And, at least up until this point in my life, the things that taste good are, usually, not exactly healthy. The way I see it, if I’m already frustrated about, say, the fact that an apartment I went to see was in a creepy, creepy building with hotel hallways, I don’t want to add to that misery with bad food, do I? It wouldn’t be right.

So my solution for years, in terms of eating reasonably well while not killing myself in the process, has been portion control. I try very hard to eat because I’m hungry, not because I’m bored or lonely or something else. I eat whatever I want, but I don’t eat a lot of it, at least not regularly. (And when I do eat too much, my stomach is there to punish me, and, believe me, it does.)

But I’ve made a recent discovery that sort of thwarts my working system or, really, trumps it. This probably won’t be a secret to you, but I have been shocked. Here it is: Healthy things can taste good. Like, really, really good. Who knew?

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parties covered in confetti

birthday cake for carrie

I’m starting to really, seriously love Twitter. Recently, I put out a request for the absolute best cake recipe, and, within minutes, I had close to 10 (!) responses. There was a flourless chocolate cake, a vegan version, a suggestion of using something by Mark Bittman. But it was @parapluiesdoux who told me about Restaurant’s Eve cake, which she said had been published a few years earlier, and for that, I will always have a special place in my heart for Twitter and, as you can imagine, her.

To describe the flavor of this cake, I must begin with something not cake at all, something comforting in the way only things you ate as a child can be, something that begs to be eaten with a tall glass of ice cold milk, just before you stretch out on the sofa to watch some T.V. What I’m talking about, and this will be obvious the moment you take a bite, is a sugar cookie.

OK, picture that rich, buttery, creamy taste of a sweet sugar cookie, piled high with icing, and then transfer that image to a tall, moist layer cake, slathered with generous dollops of pink buttercream. Do you have it?

That, essentially, is this cake.

cake for carrie

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to save you time

fastest chocolate cake

The summer after my senior year, I hit the jackpot: after years of just babysitting, I got my first job—part-time cashier at a local craft mall for $6.50 an hour. I spent afternoons with a handful of middle-aged women who, aside from always changing my soundtrack choices from Nat King Cole to 1970s bands that I still don’t know names of but shudder when I hear in the grocery store, were very nice to me. They also kept Sunchips in the break room, and that made me like them very much.

The next summer, I worked at camp, and the summer after that when I came back home, the craft mall had gone out of business. A friend was living with us at the time, and she and I stalked job listings daily, which is what led us to a joint interview with a marketing company offering between $15 and $18 per hour, all summer long.

I should stop here and interject: There’s a chocolate cake recipe circling the Internet—maybe you’ve seen it? It promises chocolate cake in mere minutes. All you have to do is mix a couple ingredients in a mug and stick it in the microwave, and voila, just like that, cake! The first time I saw the recipe, on a food blog months ago, I’ll admit I was tempted. But a wiser, seasoned part of me balked. When something seems too good to be true, after all, it probably is. And I remembered that summer job interview.

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this right now

cream of pistachio

Morning, and the kitchen is quiet, with sunlight streaming across the sink and onto the wood floors, and I pour coffee, grab my lunch, take my keys from the little basket by the door. There will be 20 minutes at least, between me and the office, along expressways of commuters, and I will look at them, talking on their phones, singing with their radios, glancing at their watches, before I park and walk inside, up stairs to my desk, to begin the work day, to talk with my coworkers and double-check spellings at Merriam-Webster and watch the geese fly past my window and onto the roof.

5:30, and I’m getting in my car, like I’ve done so many times, and I’m stopping by the train station, like I do every day, and I’m walking in my front door, and I’m eating dinner, again. It’s spring here—when did spring come? Weren’t we just talking about fall and winter and how I hated the snow? The light lasts longer now, and the days are warmer, rainy. I take it all, eagerly, greedily, like it will never end.

You know, I’m only 26—I find myself throwing the only in there more and more, the way it’s inserted into excuses from guilty children like, I only skipped one homework assignment or I only said that because the other kids did. But as much as I know we are guaranteed nothing, in terms of time, in terms of living, I also know 26 is, usually, not a lot of life to have lived and, usually, it’s not enough time to warrant strong opinions or heavy reminiscing. But I do: I look at the moments around me—the way the grass looks when it’s wet, shiny with dew and fragrant with summer; how my mom makes me laugh when she does, when her mouth closes and her nose widens and her eyes slant, just slightly, as her body shakes, like her mother’s did; the kindness someone shows you when he carries in your bags, so you don’t have to—and I think, I am living this.

This, right here—the morning coffee and the conversation and the drive home in daylight to a cozy evening with a book and blankets—this is life, and it’s a gift, and I am living this.

pistachios

Sunday night, for my brother, I made this soup.

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Kitchen Mixer Buying Guide

mixers

While my shiny stand mixer stirs batter, kneads dough or whips marshmallow fluff, I’m wiping down the counter or grabbing chocolate chips. But up until my last birthday, I had only ever used a hand mixer, which is still my mom’s choice. Which is better?

To answer that question, the folks at Cookware.com offer this buying guide, the first-ever guest post here at Food Loves Writing!

When it comes to cookware sets, there are certain appliances that are more important than others; and for people who bake frequently, a kitchen mixer is one such accessory. When upgrading a to a new mixer, be aware that there are a number of different types out there for every kitchen’s need, so if you are planning on purchasing one, it’s important to get a good idea of how often you will be using it and what exactly you’ll be mixing. So we’re going to help out by providing a quick overview of the type of kitchen mixers that are out there.

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for a loud-laughing, card-playing caterer, on her 95th

the wedding cake from my caterer grandma

I’m not going to tell you I miss her. That’s what everyone says. I’m just going to tell you I think about her sometimes, like each year when I smell my first fresh spring lilac, heady with sweetness like the big bushes in her backyard that she’d pick from to make corsages on Mothers’ Day; in summer, when the tomato plants grow big, their leaves overwhelming the wiring around them and huge, red fruits forming on the branches; at night, when I can’t fall asleep, and I watch the shadows from the windows dance across the wall, just the way they did in Grandma’s room, when we slept with the window open, a street light’s beam extending across her ceiling.

I also think about my grandma on days like today, her birthday. If she had lived, she would have been 95. And I think about her, mostly, when I bake.

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a matter of time

celery root

You could say it began a few years ago, at the moment in Internet history when I first clicked on a food blog. That was what led me to celery root after all, or even to hearing about it. Before then, I must’ve walked by it in the produce section a hundred times, unknowing, overlooking its gnarly brown exterior and bulb-like shape for more familiar things like bright orange carrots or leafy green spinach or, really, anything but it.

Yet in another way, you could say it began much earlier, when I was young, the girl who wore thick pink glasses and sported puffy bangs that were regularly permed. I played no sports, belonged to no clubs, had no real accomplishments. Looking back, truly, it seems all the signs were in place from the beginning: this girl was meant to like celery root. It was only a matter of time.

Celery root, also called celeriac or knob celery, is many things, but looking at it for the first time, only one stands out: this winter vegetable isn’t pretty to look at. In fact, if you were a little like the mean kids I grew up with, you might say something like celery root is the ugliest vegetable there ever was and, you know, nobody wants to play with it.

With all that in mind, or maybe because of all that in mind, I walked towards, not away from, the celery root at my grocery store a few weeks ago, taking two globes in my hands, holding them like brains in one of those scary movies I’d never watch. I didn’t know what made one good or bad, and I didn’t know what I was going to do with the two I tucked into a plastic bag, but when I walked outside, inhaling the cold, crisp air, it was with a spring in my step.

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