that kind of something

As you know, I'm not exactly the type of person to miss winter. But can I tell you something? When these vanilla spice cookies bake, even in the middle of May, filling the kitchen with a fragrance sweet and filled with nostalgia, I'd swear I was walking around a Christmas market where they sell fresh-roasted cinnamon pecans wrapped in paper cones, the kind you take in your gloved hands, the air visible in front of you as you breathe in and out, your face flushed pink. It's like that time last winter when my friend Becky and I drove out to Geneva, on, I swear, what must have been the coldest night ever, on the hunt for homemade candy canes and cups of hot chocolate. After we walked up and down a street of bundled carolers and holiday decorations, our skin cracking and our noses running, what we found instead were frozen toes and fingers, even after returning to the car; a few photos of us, in the dark, standing near twinkling lights; and my first taste of a chestnut, which, in all … [Read more...]

after all

Well, if you haven’t heard, this site has been around for six months now, and, to celebrate, I’m holding a giveaway! Even if you don’t want to enter to win a prize, you really should head over just to see the comments being left. One or two gave me a lump in my throat, which, admittedly, isn’t too hard to do lately---Am I the only one who can never, ever watch P.S. I Love You again? Even Flash of Genius---I had to skip to the end to see the happy ending before I lost it, just 20 minutes into the video. This does not bode well for my future, in which I am supposed to grow more emotional, aren't I? But back to the comments: all of them have felt like they were written by old friends, and have convinced me, more completely than before, that the people who read this site are some of the nicest you'll find, anywhere. Speaking of which, those of you who love chocolate were awfully patient last week when I posted, the day before the biggest chocolate holiday of the year, a recipe for iced … [Read more...]

something new to love

Saturday night, I saw the San Antonio Spurs beat the Chicago Bulls, at the first professional basketball game I’ve ever attended in my life. We were in the front row, and when the Spurs players came out to warm up, they stopped to greet fans right in front of us, turning to crowds of pen-holding kids waving their arms and papers, competing for a chance to get an autograph. Early into the night, I told my friend the red-headed guy looks like Charlie Crews from Life, and then in the game, I saw him score a lot of points. But I think it was when some fellow Chicagoan started booing him that I knew I liked Bonner (for the record, I think you sound like you’re two years old when you boo someone for playing well). Sean Elliot, such a classy guy, took a picture with my friend, who is the biggest fan of the Spurs I know, maybe the biggest fan there is. Ime Udoka chatted with some kids who made a sign for him. And Tony Parker, after speaking French to some girls who said Ça va? to him, … [Read more...]

a fair trade

People don't have dinner parties much nowadays, which is really a shame, I think. I mean, they still happen, less formally usually, but mostly eating at someone's house has been replaced by meeting them at a restaurant. And there is something lost in not cooking for friends and being cooked for by them. For one, you won't be trading recipes afterwards, and, that is a loss indeed. My mom's apricot chicken isn't really hers; it came from Alice, who had our family over years ago. My favorite butter cake came from Mrs. Newman, who made it for us---especially for me---many times before I finally coaxed the recipe from her. Some of my most-loved meals came from someone else's kitchen. In a way, maybe that's part of the appeal of food blogging. Pull up a good food blog, and you're the guest in someone's home, someone you come to know if you visit often enough. You see what ingredients and preparation went into the meal. You read the host's reactions and promises for good outcomes. … [Read more...]

The Best Cookies I Eat

**This recipe was featured in Bon Appetit's Blog Envy 2009 Contest, which, although we didn't win, was fun to be considered for. In my grandma's world, there were two good Christmas gifts: clothing hangers, wrapped with their heads sticking out and placed under the tree, and, homemade food. Every December, she stacked dozens of aluminum tins on the stairs to the dark, creaky attic of her Maywood bungalow. They were all different shapes and colors, some with holiday pictures of winter sleigh rides or smiling snowmen. And for the weeks leading up to December 25th, she filled them with what she baked: fudge, sugar cookies, pecan tassies, kolachkys, peanut butter cookies, chocolate-chip cookies, dessert bars. If you were one of the relatives, you got a tin. If you lived next door, you got a tin. If you were in one of her clubs or helped run her garage sales or somehow in some way knew Caroline, you got a tin. Bonus points if she found a recipe you liked, by the way: after she … [Read more...]

The Grow-on-You-Fast Cookies

The day after I made cowboy cookies, eating two of them at my desk in the middle of the afternoon, I told my coworkers that I wasn't very impressed. The cookies were fine, good maybe, but they weren't anything that special. A chocolate-chip cookie at heart, they include extras like coconut and nuts and oatmeal, becoming something too complicated and yet fairly simple at the same time. I managed to polish off both cookies, though, commenting aloud that they really were just fine, all while looking down at my plastic baggie, more sad than I'd admit that it was empty. That was the first batch. One habit I've developed after my experience with the New York Times chocolate-chip cookies is chilling the dough before baking (well, that and forming it all into rounded balls and placing the lot of them on the cookie sheet in the fridge ahead of time, meaning later I can just pull out as many as I want, ready to bake). So the first day I made cowboy cookies was the day I made the batter: … [Read more...]