Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have been waiting a long time to tell you about these cookies.

buckwheat chocolate chip cookies

They first came to me last spring, in one of the earliest emails exchanged between here and Nashville.

Then came summer, fall, winter and a move to Tennessee.

Before long, here we were in the heart of spring again, evidenced all around us by green grass and blooming flowers, powerful thunderstorms and days of rain (and I mean that whether I’m at home in the South or at home visiting Chicago—which I’ve already done twice this month, and, I know, I know, but for good reasons, I promise).

Anyway, every year I remember again how much I love this time of year and the way buds poke out of branches, the way life comes out of the ground again. It’s the kind of thing that makes me want to pull out my camera, except for a small problem I’ve also been meaning to tell you about: somewhere in the midst of the move, I lost my camera’s battery charger, and when I ordered a replacement, it practically caught on fire when I plugged it in. So while I wait for a replacement replacement, now seems a perfect time to pull these buckwheat chocolate chip cookies out of hibernation.

Not only are they nutritious, but they’re something special in terms of taste and texture: cake-like and soft, but with a little crispness around the edges, riddled with bits of dark chocolate and that unmistakable bite of buckwheat.

holding buckwheat chocolate chip cookies

Plus, at least for me and my memories, they’re decidedly spring—a welcome attribute these days, while I watch the world come to life without a camera to share it with you, but with instead with just these cookies—something almost better.

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Thin Chocolate Cookies + Ice Cream Sandwiches

I’ve been thinking lately: One of the worst parts about being far away from people is missing out on the everyday stuff of their lives, you know? The funny stories about coworkers, the play-by-play of awkward conversations, the new recipes, the introductions, the disappointments, all those ordinary humdrum things that make up our days. I remember feeling it after college, when my friends lived in other states and e-mail and phone calls could only help so much. Then there was last summer, when the friend I’d worked with for three years got a new job (and shortly thereafter, I became self-employed) and we stopped seeing each other every afternoon.

It’s life. People get married, friends move away, there are job transitions and new cities and all kinds of change. We should expect it.

And for me, lately, it’s been the transition of my own leaving—moving from almost everyone I know to live in a different city, to be with a different person, eight hours away from where I was—and along with it, the unintended but accompanying blog break, where I’m barely eeking out a weekly post. Where did that come from?

thin chocolate cookies

It seems these things can kind of sneak up on us. I mean, one day, you’re spending a casual Thursday chatting with your friend at the office; the next, you’re sitting at your roommate’s dining room table, eating avocado on toast in the middle of Tennessee. It’s life. It’s change. I may always be amazed by it.

And I think, in all these transitions, there are moments when you miss things—say, your family, your streets, the ability to run to Whole Foods with your brother at 9:30 PM—but, the longer you hang on and stick with it, seeing all the new, good things in your life along with what can seem to be bad, things keep feeling more normal. You grow with the change, and you adapt.

Also, you work really hard at staying in touch with the people you love because then you probably can. I hope.

More thin chocolate cookies

So that’s what this post is all about: you and me, staying in touch. A lot has happened since that chicken soup debacle, for example, and you ought to be updated: Tim and I went home for a few days to surprise my mom for her birthday (and it worked!); I got over being sick; I tried chewy, charred Neapolitan-style pizza at City House; I met an old coworker for coffee/lunch and we bonded over a love for warmer weather in the South. I’ve even got a real bed now, and it was approximately $50 cheaper than what I’d expected to pay.

ice cream sandwiches

Beyond that, as you’d expect, there has been some cooking.

When I have a little down time, I usually think of cookies—because some things don’t change at all—and after a few experiments last week, I was still on the hunt for a good chocolate cookie.

ice cream on cookies

Ideally, I was looking for a chocolate cookie with some crunch—a gingersnap but made of chocolate—and while these aren’t exactly that, they are a good find just the same.

ice cream spread on cookies

Plus, being that they’re adapted from an Oreo recipe at Smitten Kitchen, it was an obvious next step to turn them into sandwiches of some kind, which is exactly what we did Tuesday afternoon with Ben & Jerry’s vanilla.

chocolate cookie ice cream sandwich

Oh my goodness, people. It was really good that there were only four cookies left when the ice cream sandwich idea happened—just enough for two—because otherwise I literally wouldn’t have been able to stop making them.

Prepare yourself: These are no joke. I like to think of them as a byproduct of the move—along with changing addresses and learning new things and missing people—because in that way, things really seem pretty great.

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coconut macaroons

coconut macaroons

The thing nobody tells you ahead of time when you say you’re going to move to a new place is that doing so—packing up most of your belongings and driving eight hours to a new city with the help of two men who must really love you to put themselves through a drive of snow and ice and, Indiana on the whole of their Saturday and Sunday—will, at many times, feel much less like Adventure and much more like Terrifying.

macaroons without chocolate

Which, I guess, is another way of saying, I’m here, for those of you who’ve been wanting an update. I’ve gone and moved to Nashville. I’m sleeping on a mattress on the floor and realized yesterday I didn’t bring my snow clothes (it snows in the South? what?), but on the whole, things are good. In fact, there has been a lot of Adventure in getting to know new streets, meeting lots of new people, visiting three libraries before finding a place to work on Monday afternoon.

dipping the macaroon

And while I do already have some basic groceries, this post is actually about a dessert we—I and that guy I moved to Nashville for—made a couple weeks ago at his house, back when I was still hunting for a place to live in this city that I guess is now home.

dipping macaroon

It’s pretty simple, just a combination of egg whites, sugar, coconut and a few other small things, but it’s handy to have when you want to use leftover egg whites (say, after making some homemade chocolate pudding, for example).

dipping the macaroon

If you’ve ever had store-bought coconut macaroons before, you’re in for a pleasant surprise with this homemade version: it’s so much softer and chewier than what I’ve had before. To finish them off, we melted a bar of dark chocolate to dip or drizzle them in, but that step is entirely optional.

dipped in chocolate

I was thinking last night while I boiled water for tea that it’s funny what things make you feel at home. For me, it’s seeing my clothes in the closet, knowing my towel’s on the back of the bathroom door but, more than that, it’s food—using the same kinds of ingredients I used in Chicagoland, stocking a new pantry, eating toast with butter and raw honey for breakfast.

plate of macaroons

So when I come up for air around here—amidst a sea of work projects and an always growing shopping list—I can already tell you where you’ll find me:

chocolate covered

and I’m already in the mood for more cookies.

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Anise Biscotti

I realized this morning that I was starting to forget what it felt like to post a blog entry. And that that was probably not a good sign.

anise biscotti

I don’t really know what to say about it. I mean, it’s the strangest thing. Over the last few weeks, I’ve made homemade chicken stock, chicken and rice soup, homemade puff pastry (adapted from this great version at Not Without Salt), goat cheese tarts, pistachio biscotti, roasted vegetables, pizza. In almost all cases, I’ve taken no photos, I’ve planned no blog posts, I’ve just made and eaten and moved on.

Who am I?

Maybe it was finishing Project 365: marathon runners get to rest for a while, right? Maybe it was starting a new year. Maybe it was being busy and feeling like simplifying my to-do list meant cutting time here.

Whatever the case, hello again. I’ve missed you.

biscotti on a baking sheet

So let’s catch up a little. I spent the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011 out of town, in Nashville—a place that just may become my new home if I can work out a living arrangement sometime soon—and on the first of the year, we drizzled chocolate onto anise biscotti that looked just like these (but were not, actually, these, as I didn’t even bring my camera on the trip).

I just read that last parenthesis and shook my head.

You know that law about how objects in motion tend to stay in motion? I guess objects not in motion, well, let’s just say it’s easy to not blog when you haven’t been blogging—kind of like it’s easy to not clean the bathroom when you haven’t for a while, or easy to not pick up the phone when you’ve forgotten for a few weeks, or easy to stay in your pajamas on a Monday morning at 2:30 PM because you’ve gotten caught up with work on your computer and you’re in the flow of things and time just flies by.

anise biscotti

Reading this post is starting to feel like a giant sigh.

But the good news is, just because it’s easy for things to stay a certain way doesn’t mean they have to. I mean, look, here I am writing a post! There you are, back at work in January! So it’s possible to do something different—to work out this afternoon instead of staying in your pajamas for example, or to go bake biscotti like you’ve always thought you should.

I’ll even help you with that last part.

This version, which I ended up making all over again last week, a few days after ringing in the new year, because seriously I enjoyed them that much, are packed with that unmistakably licorice flavor of anise, an ingredient I don’t get enough of. We made all kinds of modifications to the original recipe, halving it and swapping brandy with yogurt and adding spices and extra anise seed, and the result is really incredible: crunchy, sturdy enough for dunking in a hot drink, slightly sweet, and virtually irresistible every time you walk into the kitchen and see them on the counter.

Of course, you could resist them if you really wanted to—just like I’m forcing myself to get out of bed once I click publish. But you know what I mean.

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Pear Custard Pie in Spelt Pie Crust

Once upon a time, a girl decided to surprise her boyfriend for the weekend. It’s a classic story: she booked a plane ticket, got his friends involved and, hardest of all, fought to keep from spilling the beans beforehand. There were two months of wait time from idea to fruition, which meant lots of vague conversations and deceptive communication meant to throw him off along the way. But finally, early November came.

three pears for pear pie

She made phone plans with him for the day she was to arrive—or really, and maybe she should have seen this as a clue or as the thing we’d call foreshadowing in English class, he made phone plans with her, to cook something at the same time, from their separate cities. When she’d talked about her blog and how she’d been lacking inspiration for it (as those of you on Facebook know all about), he’d suggested this idea, and she’d said, Something with pears! Because they’ll be on sale! And she’d laughed to herself the whole time thinking, aha! he has no idea I’m coming!

making pear pie

That Saturday, after she’d landed at the airport and after she and her friend and ally had driven to his house, analyzing every option of how to actually work out the moment of surprise, they drove up to his door, ready for the sure shock that was to come, and surprise! The joke was on her—and at least it was on her friend, too—because are you ready for this? He had known the whole time, had accidentally read a Facebook message on her phone months before. So there he was, greeting her at the door. With flowers. And an entire meal. Of homemade ravioli, tomato sauce and braciole.

I know.

pear pie ready to bake

As if that wasn’t enough, two days later, they still made pear pie. And it was delicious.

streusel topping for pear pie

So to keep me from any further gushing about things other than food, let’s talk about that pear pie. Have you ever had a pie with pears? I hadn’t. Actually, I’d never even heard of it until last week, researching pear recipes. People say it’s a little like apple pie or, as in this version, like a Dutch apple pie because of the creamy custard and streusel topping.

pear pie

Since generally speaking I like pears more than apples and since there’s nothing quite like the creamy, sweet tang of a good custard, this pie is a brilliant combination.

We just used a simple store-bought pie crust (there are spelt ones in the frozen section at Whole Foods, if you’re looking for a good option), so all that was involved with this was peeling and slicing the pears (me) and mixing up ingredients (him).

piece of pear pie

It bakes for about an hour and fresh out of the oven, it’s hard to slice, so if you can wait, it’s better to let it cool and chill for a while before cutting a piece.

If you can’t wait, though—and hey, we’d get along well—then scoop it out and enjoy the creamy goodness right away.

Eating it with someone you like even more than the pie? That’s entirely optional.

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The Best Pumpkin Bread You’ll Ever Have

Remember what I said before about pumpkin being the kind of fall you could eat? Well, it’s still true—only, OK, listen: this hasn’t just been any fall.

This year in Chicago, fall’s gone above and beyond. Literally. Yesterday was the third day in a row where temps soared into the 70s. Yes, you read that right: 70s! In late October! While the trees are already ten shades of orange and red! I went somewhere last night and had to take my sweater off, that’s how warm I was. It’s the kind of thing people talk about wherever you go—church, the grocery store, chatting on the phone—as if, no matter what your feelings or indifference about this crazy gorgeous season that transitions from the long daylight of summer into the snow and frost of winter, one thing remains, at least this year, at least where I live: autumn’s got your attention.

loaf of the BEST pumpkin bread

I guess the same could be said of many things, from football to TV shows to the pleasure of reading a good book: the die-hard lovers will take the good and bad alike. They’ll cheer for their losing team. They’ll watch when no one else is. That’s like me and fall: rain or sun, cold or warm, thick and thin, I’m already sold. It’s many of us and pumpkin, especially this time of year, when we can have the pancakes and the muffins and the carving and the Jack O’ Lanterns. But just like it’s more fun to watch a winning team and just like some Octobers are easier to love than others, some pumpkin recipes are more impressive, more endearing, more oh-my-gosh good.

Like the best pumpkin bread you’ll ever have for example.

pumpkin squash bread

I am so excited about this pumpkin bread. To put it another way, if pumpkin is fall, this pumpkin bread is these last few days of October. It is weather warm enough to mean no jacket. It is driving home with the windows open. It is comfort and daylight and the best of summer with the best of the months after, where the lawns are covered with crunchy leaves and you just step outside and feel the sun on your face.

It doesn’t last long, despite yielding two loaves, but that’s only because it tastes so good and maybe because that’s how the best things go. And over the next few days, as the weather returns to low 40s (or lower! did someone say snow?), I’m going to hold onto the last few slices, savor them the way I do October, and enjoy every bite.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

pumpkin cheesecake bars

I’ve always liked pumpkin. I like the way it tastes. I like the way it looks. Mostly, I like the season it comes in, fall.

The world just looks better this time of year, you know? The colors, the weather, the way you can see your breath in the morning but take your sweater off in the afternoon. This October, I’ve seen leaves fall in Seattle and Ohio and then back again in Illinois; I’ve sipped hot apple cider and walked on piles of crunchy leaves; I’ve felt crisp air and slept with the windows open. It’s been beautiful. And even though the days are darker as we edge closer to winter, I have to tell you: I love fall.

fall in chicagoland
crunching fall leaves
leaves wet on sidewalk

All that autumnal affection has to get channeled somewhere, and I’m happy to tell you I’ve found the place: pumpkin. Because listen, pumpkin is to recipes what fall is to the calendar. When I make something with pumpkin, it’s like I’m eating pure fall, and I like that. That’s why when the people behind The Old Farmer’s Almanac Everyday Recipes sent me a copy of their cookbook recently, complete with little sticky tabs signaling the best recipes with pumpkin, I was an easy sell.

Beginning with pumpkin cheesecake bars.

everyday recipes farmer's almanac

Velvety and creamy, these bars start with a thick graham cracker crust and finish with a pumpkin filling as rich as cheesecake. You’re supposed to let them chill before slicing, but between us, I had a piece right out of the oven, warm and golden, and it was quite nice. The next day, I ate another piece, chilled, for breakfast—because it’s October after all, and I might as well eat the most of it.

pumpkin cheesecake bars

And if you too find yourself indoors one of these beautiful evenings, away from the colors and the leaves and the chill in the air, I sincerely hope it’s because you’re making this or something like it, with pumpkin, in the season I wish wouldn’t end.

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