spazmodic eating

On Monday night I made something I was SUPER excited to eat.

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Pretty, right?

It’s spicy shrimp and apple salad from Serious Eats. We’ve had it before, twice, and both times I loved it so much I could barely contain myself.

On Monday I forgot the nuts AND the basil (which I was going to sub in for the mint). And I used a shallot that was a little past it’s prime, which maintained a level of spiciness that was a little overwhelming even after I soaked it in water.

Basically it blew. My fault, not the recipe’s fault. So sad.

Then yesterday I just put oddly timed and chosen foods in my mouth all day until I didn’t feel like eating them anymore.

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I started the morning with a smashed chickpea salad – basically I smooshed chickpeas and then stirred in a little mayo, some salt, some celery, and a big squeeze of harissa.

It was good. And spicy.

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I followed with about half of this package of Popchips.

I love Popchips. They’re so crunchy that if people who want to talk to me have to go away when I’m eating them and come back later.

They’re not usually breakfast food, but wev.

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I figured out how to get Fresca out of the soda machine! (Turns out there is no row F. Spoiler: the Fresca was in row E the whole time.)

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Then, later, for… lunch? Who can say with meals like this. It was about 2 pm, I think… I had a piece of an almond peach galette I made on Monday night after dinner to rebound from the shrimp salad fiasco. It’s a basic half whole wheat all butter pie dough, layered with about a cup of frangipane from my freezer, topped with three sliced fresh peaches, and baked for about forty five minutes.

It’s way better than the messed up shrimp salad.

I got hungry towards the end of the day, but I held out because three of my darling friends were coming over at 6:45 for book club, and they were all bringing food. I chilled a bottle of dry riesling (what? are you implying I knew they didn’t like riesling and I’d have leftover wine? of course not!) and made a spinach artichoke dip (ingredients from Alton Brown, quantities unmeasured, lightened, and based on what I had in my fridge and then topped with more parm and broiled for five minutes), and we chatted about Wither and life and basically got our girl on.

There may have been a dance party when Cruel To Be Kind came on the stereo.

Other good spontaneous dance party songs? They must exist!

We had three kinds of hummus, sliced veggies, bread, crackers, almonds, cheese, chocolate covered pretzels, and my dip. I have a picture somewhere… but I’m tired and my camera is alllll the way over there. Anyway, hopefully your Tuesday was fab!

cuppy cakes!

Despite my solemn promise of a cuppy cake recipe yesterday, I totally did not share a cuppy cake recipe.

Why am I saying cuppy cake? Because I’m currently super adorable, I guess?

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See?

Oh, that’s not adorable.

That’s the kind of thing that happens at a 5 year old’s birthday party.

(Crockett’s nephew turned five. Wearing that mask is one thing I did yesterday that was not publishing a cupcake recipe.)

(Apparently seeing myself in a Spiderman mask was enough to knock me out of that ‘cuppy cake’ nonsense.)

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We also helped my mom move a couch into her garage. It’s a nice leather couch. It’s for sale on Craigslist – let me know if you’re interested (and not halfway across the country)! It’s from Scandinavian Designs but was the only piece of furniture in her guest room and does not make much of a guest room bed.

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We went grocery shopping and brought home whatever we felt like for lunch. Crockett apparently felt like a tiger roll.

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I, less sensibly, felt like a big sweet chili tofu steak.

We shared, because he did not begrudge me my odd choice.

Now, without further ado… Cupcakes!

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(What? I told you I forgot to take pictures of them!)

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Here’s what you need to know about these cupcakes. They have been gradually and professionally optimized by me to consistently bake up gorgeous at 5000 feet, give or take. In other words, this is a high altitude recipe. It will probably be fine at sea level, but if your’e up in the air with me know that this does not need any alterations, mmkay?

 

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Makes 30 cupcakes – can easily be halved or two-thirded (two thirded? really?)

15.5 ounces all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 salt 
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
13 ounces granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 1/4 tsp white vinegar
1 1/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 cup water
3 eggs

Heat your oven to 350. Line your cupcake tins with papers.

Note: remember what I said last week about making buttermilk with milk and vinegar? That’s not ideal here – buttermilk is actually the flavor of red velvet, so use the real stuff if you can. If you really think you’ll never use it again and want to buy just half a pint, make up the extra 1/4 cup with 2% milk.

Stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder with a whisk.

In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar with the oil until combined and then add the remaining ingredients and whisk until uniform. Add half to the dry ingredients and stir until they’re all moistened, then add the rest and beat the crap out of it by hand for about two minutes or by machine for about twenty seconds. You don’t usually do that with cake batter, but the amount of acid in the batter means it’s going to stay tender and this will help give you a light texture by putting a bunch of air in the batter.

Using a half cup measure or a half cup ice cream scoop, fill each cupcake paper. If you’re making all thirty and using regular tins with space for twelve cupcakes, leave the center two empty in each. If you’re baking them in batches, which I suggest, beat the batter for a second before filling the liners each time.

Bake for between 13 and 17 minutes – I would tap the top at 13 and if the dent sticks, give it two more minutes. If it still feels a smidge squishy, give it one more. No more than that. Seriously, don’t do it. You’re asking for dried out cupcakes. Turn out of the pans to cool and frost or wrap well and freeze.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/2 pounds cream cheese (three packages)
1 pound butter (four sticks)
1 – 1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar (it comes in one or two pound bags)
2 tsp vanilla

Bring all the ingredients to room temperature. Seriously. This is the most important part. DO NOT SKIP THIS PART.

Blend the cream cheese and butter together until TOTALLY combined. It will seem ok to have little lumps but it is NOT OK. If you see a lump and you think it’s the last lump, it is not the last lump. Keep mixing.

Sift over about 1/2 pound of your powdered sugar and carefully beat. (This will be messy. It’s worth it.) Do it again, mix in the vanilla, and taste. If you want it sweeter, which I usually don’t, gradually add what you have left, tasting as you go. It’s easy to over power the cream cheese tang, so proceed carefully.

Use to frost your cupcakes. You’ll have a tiny bit left over, so you should probably just eat that.

 

HARISSA FINALLY

 

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So I’ve been looking for harissa everywhere. I assumed it would not be that hard to find – it’s not like Boulder county is a culinary wasteland. I checked at two different Whole Foods, a few grocery stores, and Super Target, and had no luck whatsoever. (A WF worker did helpfully inform me that they had something that had harisa in it – some kind of meal in a box, maybe? It was definitely not what I was looking for.)

Crockett and I went to Pacific Ocean Market, even, which is this absolutely INSANE Asian market a couple of towns over. We spent several minutes sniffing durian packages (not smelly until opened, apparently), many many minutes in the ramen aisle, and quite a significant amount of time discussing cocktails made with palm sugar, since there were several brands. We did not find harissa. Honestly, I knew it was a stretch, because harissa is from Tunisia which ain’t exactly Asian, but whatever.

I ordered it from Amazon.

While we were waiting for the harissa to come, I did make some tasty food.

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Pizza with roasted cherry tomatoes, pesto from our ridiculously prolific basil plant, and goat cheese. Served with roasted green beans because this was actually last Sunday and last Sunday I had this weird idea that we were going to eat a vegetable with every meal.

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Red velvet cupcakes as a special request from a dear friend for her boyfriend.

Her boyfriend who totally ruined the surprise by buying himself two red velvet bundt cakes from Nothing Bundt Cakes the day before.

(I forgot to take pictures of them frosted, obviously, but I’ll give you the recipe tomorrow. It’s pretty good. I’ve worked pretty hard on it. And my cream cheese frosting is fucking amazing. Totally true.)

BUT then the harissa came!

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Harissa Chickpeas and Greens with Goat Cheese
Adapted from Not Without Salt

1 tablespoon oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one 15 ounce can)
1 tablespoon harissa paste
3/4 tsp kosher salt
6 cups mixed greens, preferably the baby version of toughish varieties (spinach, kale) or spicy ones (arugula) – we used a whole prewashed box of mixed spinach and arugula
2 ounces goat cheese

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is pale gold in color.

Stir in the harissa and dump in the chickpeas. Stir gently until they’re mostly covered with the paste, and then occasionally until you start to see golden spots on the chickpeas. You’re not just trying to heat them up, you’re actually trying to fry the outside just a little. (I was using a non-stick pan – use your judgement. If they start to stick, you can be done.)

Add the greens by the handful, stirring until they wilt. Divide into two dishes and top with crumbled goat cheese. (Feel free to serve over rice, if you like. I didn’t find it necessary but Crockett did.)

Serves two people who like heat. The harissa is spicy, but tasty.

 

take it! I want you to have it!

My book is free today!

 

 

 

 

 

 

do scallops get ulcers?

I’m a worrier. I don’t mean to be a worrier, but I am a worrier. It sucks.

Like, on Saturday? When I was at my family reunion?

My mom and I went to run some errands, and we put all four of our dogs in the car to accompany us. Don’t worry, it was only 65 degrees – the car was a happy place for them. We pulled up to the shopping center closest to our ranch, which happens to be at the intersection of two mountain highways, and parked the car. Maida, my lil puppy girl, hopped out of the car to come shopping with us, but I caught her and put her back where she belonged.

When we returned to the car, literally less than five minutes later, we saw my Cloey in the front seat, mom’s Buck in the back seat, and mom’s Charley hanging his head out the rear window.

The mostly open rear window.

And no sign of Maida.

So, my mom’s dogs are big. She doesn’t have to worry about half open windows, because her boys aren’t going anywhere. I should have checked to make sure the car was a safe place for my girls, but it didn’t occur to me. I stuck my head in the windows and opened the door of the seat where I’d left Maida, and I called her, and there was no sign of her.

My mom and I spent twenty minutes running around the parking lot, asking strangers for help, and screaming Maida’s name. I was absolutely sure that Maida was smushed somewhere. I called Crockett, who was only a few minutes away at the ranch, and asked him to come down. He asked me a series of reasonable questions but I was absolutely NOT hearing it – I was instead stopping every few minutes and going into a ‘where’s my DOG’ panic attack?

Are you scared?

Don’t be.

Maida was sleeping under the driver’s seat of the car. Crockett found her within ten minutes of meeting us. While I was accosting strangers and begging them to help me find my puppy, he was using his brain.

Yes, I’m a worrier.

Today something else happened that turned out ok, but I’m still all blerg about it, so I’m not ready to share. However, I will share:

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The delicious bag o’ heirloom cherry tomatoes that I bought on my way home from work yesterday at Ollin Farms.

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I remembered to take a picture of the farm as I was driving away. Pretty, eh? I drive by it on my way home every day and this is the only time I’ve stopped.

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I ate some of them for lunch today, along with the last of the leftover turkey burgers from the reunion and a Diet Coke. I’d really really wanted a Fresca, because hell yeah Fresca, but the F button was broken on the soda machine and the Frescas were in the F row. I’m really worried that they’re going to stop stocking them because no one can buy them. Stupid row F.

Ok, here’s today’s question, a little early.

Do you like scallops?

Because I want to like scallops, and I just don’t, really. I don’t dislike them, but for me they’re like lobster. Special in theory, but really nothing more than a vehicle for buttery sauce in practice.

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Crockett freaking loves scallops, though, so last night we had scallops. They were good, for scallops. Crockett loved them. What do I know.

Thai-ish Scallops and Rice

8 oz sea scallops, fresh or defrosted (I got ours frozen from Whole Foods – they were sustainably sea caught(? do scallops run away?), cause I’m all smug like that)
olive oil
3/4 cup jasmine rice
1 cup coconut milk, light or not light
3 tablespoons Thai basil, not chopped (regular basil or mint would be good too)
2 tablespoons lemongrass (I buy the chopped stuff in the tube from the grocery store because it keeps for awhile and I have no idea where to get fresh lemongrass)
salt

Combine the rice and 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1 1/2 cups water (or however much you usually use, I’m at 5300 feet and need a lot of water for boiling things) and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and set a timer for 20 minutes.

Combine the coconut milk, basil, and lemongrass in another pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a fast simmer. Add half a teaspoon of salt. You want this to reduce while the rice is cooking. (If you want to cook the rice in the coconut milk you can, just wait until ten minutes of cooking have passed before adding herbs. I personally like it as a sauce because you can pour it over the scallops.)

When the rice is pretty much done, heat a pan over medium high and add some olive oil. Pat the outside of the scallops dry and salt – somewhere between generously and lightly. Not four grains, but not 500 either. If you’re using kosher salt, I would aim for about a teaspoon and a half for all the scallops, about  teaspoon if you’re using regular salt.  When the oil is hot, place the scallops in the pan with one flat side down and set your timer for one minute. When one minute has passed, flip them to the other side and cook for one more minute. Touch the top and if they still seem squishy, give them thirty more seconds. If they feel firm, pull them off the heat super quick and transfer them to a plate.

Serve rice, top with scallops, and pour reduced sauce over the top.

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do zombies like salad?

I’m having a weird week – I have this thing where I just get these headaches every day for a few days, and then no headaches for ages. Since it’s cyclical, I suspect it’s a girl thing? Cyclical things always are. Stupid cycles.

Anyway, it always makes me feel kind of off. My sleep patterns get wonky, because of naps, and I don’t feel like my brain is working at it’s full potential.

Oh, and one of my aunts thinks that she got bedbugs at the lodge this weekend. That’s not really helping with the sleep.

I’m not telling you this for any useful reason, it’s just true. I should have blogged last night, but I actually forgot. Like, forgot I was a blogger. I watched The Walking Dead and also watched Crockett fold laundry instead.

Brain dead, zombie style.

 

Other examples: those things attaching my hand to the puppies? Yeah, those are belts. I couldn’t remember where I’d left their leashes.

I took this picture (why, oh why, do blackberries mold so fast?) without realizing there was a ghost (alternately, a thumb) in the upper left corner.

Don’t worry, these blackberries weren’t moldy. It’s just that I had to eat like four pints in two days to be able to make that be a true statement.

This morning, post extremely slow one mile run, I carried around my breakfast shake and iced coffee all morning while getting ready…

and then with three minutes left before I had to leave, realized I hadn’t consumed any of either of them. Even though, yes, they accompanied me to the bathroom sink.

Anyway, can I tell you guys about the best and easiest salad dressing ever? I can? Awesome. I made it last night, even with my wonky headspace issues.

Miso Dressing

2 tablespoons sweet white miso paste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar

Smoosh everything together until completely combined and toss with salad, preferably a chunky one. (The dressing doesn’t work better on chunky salads, I just don’t really approve of salads that aren’t full of stuff). Makes about two servings.

There are a lot of options here, of course.

  • You can add a little water if it seems too thick – you don’t want any chunks of paste left, because they turn into a weird, sort of gritty mouthful.
  • You can start with a different kind of miso, although I never do because the white is the mildest and I like that umami hint, not a full on miso flavored  salad. I get my miso paste at WholeFoods in a flat white container that snaps shut, and the paste keeps forever. The container I’m currently using expires 7/2013.
  • Different fat? Absolutely. Bacon fat would be nice on an appropriate salad, or a walnut or hazelnut oil (probably sub only half the olive oil out, unless you’re CRAY about the taste of your nut oil).
  • Different vinegar? Sure! A fruit vinegar would nicely complement a salad that contains fruit, of course. My salads always contain fruit, but I never have fruit vinegar. The only vinegar I’d skip would be a heavy balsamic, at least with white miso. Too powerful. White balsamic should be ok though.
For reals, it’s delicious. There’s no emulsifying, no herbs, no need to salt (although I usually lightly salt my salads after they’re dressed) – no issues at all, just tastiness.

 

shameless. and achy.

My head is killing me, you guys. I’ve had a headache since lunchtime, and a nap hasn’t fixed me up – I think I’m going to eat a bowl of butter masala and go back to bed.

Which makes this an excellent time for some shameless self promotion.

Corked cover

This is my book.

It’s available for purchase here. It’s also available to be checked out if you’re a Kindle prime member.

AND, just for you guys, I will be giving it away for free on Friday. (Don’t worry, I’ll remind you then.)

This is what I already wrote about it, and I would love to be wordier but … ow.

When Ollie’s face appears on Rose’s computer screen, she thinks it’s time for her to take a break. After all, the security tape she is reviewing is a week old, and Ollie died five years earlier, on the same night he broke up with her. A tragic accident took his life, and Rose has spent years putting hers back together. She has a new boyfriend, a new job, and a new place to live. A good night’s sleep and a cup of coffee later, Ollie’s face is still there, and Rose can’t help but try to track him down.

LHope y’all do not have headaches. See you tomorrow! (If you’d like to chat, tell me what the best book you ever discovered online is, please?)

 

Well, I feel reune-ed

This weekend was my family reunion (for my mom’s side of the family). It was in Woodland Park at a place called Triple B Ranch, so on Friday afternoon Crockett and I packed up the car (and the dogs) and headed down.

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There was a considerable amount of confusion on the part of the small furry members of the family.

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We stopped a couple of times along the way for supplies. Namely, wine. Lots of wine.

I was a little stressed, you guys. See, my mom is one of twelve children, and only one of her siblings wasn’t there. When you include my grandma, my aunts and uncles husbands and wives and a few (but not nearly all) of the grandkids and some of their significant others, we had about forty people. And one cousin and I were in charge of food.

Since I had to work Friday, my mom and that cousin did the shopping – and since they were doing the shopping, I took it on myself to turn our meal plan into a list with quantities. I was nervous about putting together food for that many people.

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Here’s some of them at our pancake breakfast. See? Lots of people!

We did do things other than eat, of course.

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We danced, and sang karaoke, and walked the dogs. The ranch had horses, so some people rode. (I opted to not smell like horse all weekend, so I passed.) We hung out with the puppies in the room and played charades. I supervised pool volleyball…

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With the help of a solo cup of wine and my kindle. Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is a strange, compelling book, y’all.

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I cooked. Good heavens did I cook. This is a just one of the tables set up for one of the meals – the tables go off to the left and all those tables in the background were full of eating people in just a few minutes.

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I set aside food for myself while no one was paying attention. Grilled corn, turkey burger, half of a beef burger, broccoli salad, caprese salad (it’s back there, I swear), avocado, and some pita chips.

It turns out I love pita chips.

I may have gained five pita chip related pounds this weekend.

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Cloey enjoyed watching the world go by…

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and Maida enjoyed sitting under people’s chair and catching stray pieces of food.

Unfortunately, Crockett had to go home Saturday evening, so on Sunday my mom and I drove back together.

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The car was full of leftover food and exhausted, farm smellin’ dogs.

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We stopped for Coffee Light Frapuccinos (I don’t drink these very often, but when I do I’m always pleasantly surprised by how much tasty coffee bitterness they manage to maintain – are the non light ones that way too?).

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When I made it home, I gleefully shopped for a week’s worth of food for two people. Two. Yogurt, scallops, salad – it all fit into one tiny cart.

It was glorious.

If you’re interested, this was the meal plan for the weekend, with my commentary and quantities (and weird blog formatting that I’m too lazy to fix, sorry!):

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I especially like the last line. I’m so sensitive.

 

odds and ends

The food at my training sucked.

Ok, fine. That may not be entirely true – I wouldn’t know about two of the days.

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I don’t know if you can see the problem here, so let me lay it out for you.

There are green peppers in every one of those options. The middle one is tofu! Which was nice for vegetarians! But still, green peppers.

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Those are not jalepenos. They’re bell peppers.

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Who the hell puts bell peppers in guacamole? Our cafeteria, apparently.

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Is it terrible to say that I briefly considered eating something with the peppers in it to get out of the training via allergic reaction? Briefly, I said! When I’d ruled that out, I ended up with a choice of a tortilla with cheese and either lettuce or sour cream.

Fortunately, I’d packed a lunch. I had some tasty farro and mozzarella balsamic salad while everyone else enjoyed their fajita bar.

And then I made Rick Bayless’s Zucchini, Corn, and Poblano Tacos at home to make myself feel better.

They were awesome.

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Day two was lasagne. Have you seen a tray of hotel lasagne? With unidentified meat product in the red version and a puddle of oil seeping out of the white version? Then you know what the lasagne looked like.

I didn’t eat it either. I ate farro and mozzarella balsamic vinegar salad again. I am VERY original.

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Yesterday we had sandwiches! I ate those. And the cookie. And two platefuls of the fruit salad.

Yum.

Anyway, overall? Training food is not good food. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

empty handed

I was in training all day today.

Hybrid hard disk drive training.

It was totally interesting! Until like 10 am. And it was pretty tolerable. Until like 2 pm.

My notes from the last three hours of the day include a lot of stick figures.

Anyway.

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That party we went to? With all the Thai food? I did not show up empty handed. I brought two of my favorite cookies.

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Chocolate Whoopie Pies
Very slight adapted from The Good Cookie, i.e. one of the best cookie books ever. Unfortunately, it’s out of print now :(. Sadness.

1 stick room temperature butter, unsalted
1 cup sugar
1 egg, separated
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup buttermilk or 1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar (I NEVER have buttermilk. The substitution works fine.)
2 cups flour (I’ve substituted whole wheat pastry flour for half with acceptable results, but try to resist the urge.)
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 stick room temperature butter, unsalted
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla (Use clear vanilla if you have it, which I only do because a good friend of mine brought it home from me from Mexico. I have no idea how it’s clear.)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cream together the butter and sugar for at least two full minutes. You want lots of air in there. LOTS. Beat in the egg yolk, reserving the white.

Mix the baking soda into the warm water. Sift the cocoa powder over the butter/sugar/egg mixture, and at least partially incorporate it with a spoon or the beaters. (It will poof everywhere. Embrace it or stir slowly.) Add the hot water mixture and beat to combine. Add one cup of the flour, along with the salt, stir, and add the milk and lemon juice/vinegar (or buttermilk). Beat to combine. Add the final cup of flour and beat until there are very few lumps left.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or butter it). Using a one tablespoon scoop (or just a tablespoon measure), scoop balls onto the baking sheet. Leave 1 1/2 to 2 inches between balls – you can fit 15 on a standard baking sheet.

Bake for 6 minutes, then check. It’s hard to tell since they’re so dark, but the top should be craggy like you see in the picture and shouldn’t squish if you poke it. (It can dent, but it shouldn’t squish.) If you have any doubts, stick em back in for another minute. Overcooked isn’t great but it’s better than under. As soon as they’re done, carefully remove them to a cooling rack.

While you’re baking all the cookies, cream together the butter and cream cheese for the frosting. Add the powdered sugar and beat until crumbly, then add the egg white and vanilla. (You will be eating it raw. If you prefer not to use the egg white, sub 2 tablespoons milk or cream or even water.) Beat until smooth.

Once the cookies are at room temperature, pair them up in appropriate sizes. They should be MOSTLY the same size, but some will definitely fit together better than others.

Spread one to one and a half teaspoons on the inside of one cookie and top with it’s mate. Repeat and put in the fridge until they’re not sliding around anymore.

Store somewhere coolish. They’ll be great for a day, tasty for two or three more, and worth eating for close to a week. (That last part might be just my opinion.)

The other cookies were these almond blueberry bars. Recipe later this week, deal? Deal.

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You know what’s almost as good as cookies?

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BBQ with my man.

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Even if it does rain so hard we can’t play cornhole.

More training tomorrow! And Wednesday! Whoo. Hoo.