Double Delight Peanut Butter Cookies

with honey and cinnamon

Well, the blizzard ended up being a bust in New York, but I still enjoyed cozying up in my apartment, cooking and watching movies. Kramer and I had olive oil roasted beets with ricotta, mint and sea salt alongside roasted chicken slathered in garlic butter, plus we killed a bottle of wine, all while snuggled up in blankets and refusing to move from the couch. It was a pretty good night! On Tuesday, we waited to hear whether or not the subways would be running, and they were, but it was on and off for the L train, as per usual, so instead of spending hours waiting and commuting, we worked from home. I, of course, found some time in between answering emails to bake a cake, because why not? I’m home, may as well! Around 5, we decided to finally get out of the house and meet up with some friends for a quick drink before heading home. Of course, just because the blizzard didn’t really happen doesn’t mean there isn’t still a ton of snow on the ground – snow that is quickly becoming piles of ice and mounds of slush. If you don’t have waterproof boots and live in the city right now, I pity you. Kramer also woke up with an absolutely awful cold this morning. I’m praying that it doesn’t hit me next, but better now than in a few weeks when we’re headed to Tokyo and Taipei! He told me to take some zinc this morning, but I feel like instead of fighting it off like I usually do, I’d rather have the sickness just take hold now instead of coming back at full speed right before our vacation. Sometimes you just have to fall on that grenade.

double delight peanut butter cookiesMy new cookie jar – how appropriate.

I mentioned a few posts ago that Kramer and I went to Vermont with some friends over MLK weekend. It was incredibly fun! I’d never been skiing or anything like that before…and I still haven’t, technically, because I refused to ski or snowboard, but Kramer did enough for the both of us. Instead, my friend Amanda and I decided to blow out of the lodge and head into Wilmington, where we wandered around antique stores, book stores, and, most importantly, fudge stores. Taffy, fudge, books and old cookie jars in hand, we found a taxi to take us the rest of the way home. We were giddy with how we were able to pull off not having to fall on our asses all day on the mountain (although, I guess, if you’re into that sort of thing, it can be fun). The rest of the gang got back from a long day outdoors later on, so I heated up some cider and poured a healthy amount of bourbon into each cup. After dinner, we called it an early-ish night so that the masochists would be able to wake up early and hit the slopes. Kramer opted to stay with the smart people this time (i.e. Amanda and me), mostly because he was so sore he couldn’t move. We slept in, watched TV, and enjoyed the cabin’s in-house sauna (fancy). The evening was filled with spaghetti, card games, and a snowball fight, so I’d say the trip overall was a great success. I don’t know if I’d ever snowboard or ski, but I’d definitely go on another winter cabin trip.

double delight peanut butter cookies

Apparently it’s almost time for the Superbowl, but seeing as how I am not athletically inclined (see my refusal to snowboard or ski, above), I never really think about sports or football food or whatever until the event is upon us. I mostly enjoy watching the Superbowl because I get to eat chips and drink beer and be obnoxious about not understanding the rules. It’s pretty fun. I figure, though, that these peanut butter cookies would be an excellent game day treat. I made them years and years ago, back in 2008, what we’d call “ancient times”, and they’re as good now as they were then. Let me explain: these cookies are based on the one million dollar Pillsbury cookie contest that’s held every year. They are a ball of peanut butter stuffed inside peanut butter cookies, then rolled in chopped peanuts, cinnamon and sugar. They are insanely good. The creamy filling is such a surprise when you bite in that you’ll go back for at least one more. Sure, the process is a little labor intensive, but I swear to god that they’re worth making, especially for any peanut butter lover (see: lubber) in your life.

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Blood Orange Quick Bread

with blood orange syrup

I hear a storm’s a’brewin’ here on the East coast! Sometimes you never know if you’re actually going to get an insane blizzard or storm or if the media is totally overplaying how serious the weather is going to be. This time seems pretty legit, though – the mayor is holding press conferences, the governor is telling people to work from home, and Kramer even had his first day back to grad school cancelled tonight because of how bad the snow is going to be. I suppose we’ll see when it really starts up this afternoon and later tonight. I do love a good snow storm, but not if it’s going to mess with people’s power and heat and all of that. We’ve always been really lucky in that we’ve never lost electricity or anything like that, even during Sandy a few years ago. I’m ready to hunker down and grab some snacks at the bodega after work. My problem is always that I’ve got plenty of food in the house, but nothing that can just be eaten – everything has to be prepared. That helps when the late night snack monster hits and I want to eat everything in site, but there’s nothing really in sight unless I want to bust out a pan and a cutting board. For situations like these, though, where there is the slight chance you’ll lose the ability to turn on your oven or stove, it’s good to have some supplies handy. Thankfully our bodegas never get ransacked for supplies like some grocery stores do before storms, but I hope I’ll find a few good things to pick up after work today. I definitely need some hot chocolate if nothing else.

blood orange quick bread

We went to our friend Tom and Val’s place on Saturday night to play some board games and see their baby, Victoria. It’s always crazy to see the offspring of your two friends grow into an actual human person. I can see her personality developing more and more each time I go over there to see her, and the two of them are so happy and are such great parents that it makes even my cold, black heart feel some a little warm and fuzzy inside. Anyway, I wanted to bring something over that is appropriate for busy first time parents. I figured a quick bread of sorts would be perfect – they can grab a slice as a snack while they’re running around with the baby, or maybe have it as a light pick-me-up dessert after dinner. I don’t think that this is typically Val or Tom’s preference for breakfast, but I would love a slice of this with some black coffee or strong tea. Anyway, I found a basic quick bread recipe on The Kitchn and got to work. A little blood orange zest, a little lemon zest and a slightly sweet syrup poured over the top of the hot bread made for the perfect loaf, in my opinion. You get all of the bright citrus from the oranges and lemons, but there’s the slight bitterness from the blood orange that I love, like you’re eating a bread with a touch of Campari (my favorite). If you’re waiting for a blizzard like I am, grab some seasonal blood oranges, bake this bread, drizzle a little honey and spread a little butter over a fresh-from-the-oven slice and get cozy!

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Peanut Butter Milky Way Blondies

with sea salt

I had a really great long weekend. Kramer and I went to Vermont with some friends for a weekend of snowboarding, antiquing, reading by the fire and, of course, plenty of eating. We may or may not have had tater tot breakfast tacos one morning. It was pretty sweet. I want to tell you all about it, but I had a really shitty experience on my subway ride home last night and while I am totally fine, I want to share what happened because I believe that the more women that speak up about their experiences, the more other women will be empowered to do the same. I think that if you silently accept what happens to you, others will follow suit, and that doesn’t help anyone. Obviously other women have had far more scarring things happen on their commutes, but what happened last night still really shook me up and made me feel awful. I was on yet another overly packed subway car, but I was on my way to meet some friends for drinks and wings, so I was in a good mood. At the stop before the one I was getting off at, this guy behind me started grabbing at my ass. I think at first I thought it was just someone’s bag pushing into me or something, but then the feeling of someone pawing at me was unmistakeable and I turned to this guy with my mouth agape because I couldn’t believe he was squeezing my ass. We were at my stop when I finally got myself together enough to say something to him. “Were you touching me? Were you grabbing me?” I kept asking him, but he averted his eyes and pretended not to hear me. “This guy was grabbing my ass!” I yelled to everyone on the subway car, but everyone just kind of looked at me, and I pushed my way through the people and walked above ground. I felt shaky and upset and really angry. I wanted to punch the guy in the face, but in the moment, I was thinking about all of the things that could go wrong in that scenario, like maybe he had a weapon, or maybe I had just imagined the whole thing. Other thoughts running through my head included, but were not limited to: Did I not make big enough scene? Should I have grabbed him and dragged him to a cop or MTA employee? Should I have taken a picture of him? Should I have screamed? I don’t know. I always thought I was the kind of person who didn’t take this kind of thing, that I’d know how to react in this kind of situation, but I was stunned. I know it’s not my fault and I know that I’m lucky it was just this and not something way worse, but I still felt bad about myself after it happened and I did have a little trouble sleeping last night because I couldn’t stop replaying the incident over and over again in my head.

peanut butter milky way blondiesDun-Well Doughnuts and some photos from our trip to Vermont.

Kramer and my friends were all really awesome and supportive. They reminded me that this guy was a piece of garbage and that I shouldn’t let him bring me down, and I feel a lot better this morning, albeit still pretty angry. What the hell? This is the kind of thing that makes me just hate everyone forever, you know? I hate that I felt anxious on the subway this morning, and I hate that I’m probably going to be thinking about this for a long time. I don’t want to, and I also kind of feel like I’m blowing it out of proportion because, again, overall, I’m fine and I didn’t get hurt. I just feel violated, and the whole thing just sucks. There’s not much more to say about it other than that, I guess. I hope that in plastering my experience all over the internet, insignificant in the long run as it may be, that it reminds people that this shit happens to women constantly, all day, every day, in every city in every country all over the world. Women walk around with this weight on their shoulders, having to watch out for predators and perverts and everything in between. Women question what they’re wearing, how they are behaving and how they can prevent these kinds of things from happening, and it’s really awful that we can’t just get up, get dressed and walk out the door without having to worry. UGH. At least I can always drown my sorrows in food.

peanut butter milky way blondies

So when you’ve had a bad day and you want to dropkick people on the subway, the best thing to do is turn to some good old fashioned comfort food. For example, last night I immediately inhaled a plate of buffalo wings. I think that these peanut butter blondies would have also cheered me up, too, if I had any left in my apartment. I actually made these way back in November, but things got crazy with the holidays and I forgot about them. How could I? They were so good! Chewy peanut butter blondies dotted with caramely Milk Way bars and salted peanuts – what’s not to love? I had my hands full of Milky Ways because I have no shame and I had Tweeted at Milky Way asking for free candy. Well, ask and ye shall receive, because a few weeks later, a big box of Milk Way bars arrived at my doorstep, begging to be put into some kind of baked good. I went with the classic peanut butter and chocolate combo, but the caramel and sprinkle of sea salt turned these into a dessert you can’t help but sneak of piece of for breakfast. I brought them into the office and they were consumed within 20 minutes, as any good blondie is wont to do. Just a suggestion: for the ultimate comfort food experience, I recommend warming these up a bit and putting a scoop of ice cream on top. You can thank me later.

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Butternut Squash & Bell Pepper Soup

with toasted pecans

It’s been both so dry and so cold in New York that I feel like I’m going to crawl out of my own skin! I haven’t been able to fully open my eyes in about a week. Either I’m squinting into the blustery wind on my way to work or wherever else I’m headed, or I’m at home or at work with the heat on full blast, drying out my eye sockets. I’ve been trying to be good about putting eye drops in, but seeing as how I’m a true believer (i.e. I wear glasses all the time and have never worn contacts), I have a really hard time getting them into my eyes, so whenever I attempt the eye drop thing it’s this big production where I stand in front of the sink squeezing my eyes together for a few minutes before I can open them again. I love a lot of things about winter, but the extra maintenance is not one of those things. I have to worry about putting lotion on my body and coconut oil in my hair…basically I’ve got a thin layer of something or other coating my person at all times so that I don’t turn into a cracked mess. Right now, the temperature says that it’s 30 degrees out but the wind chill takes the “real feel” down to about 20 degrees. I want to just stay under this blanket all day. It’s so toasty in here. For some reason, though, no matter what doe-eyed face I can muster up, I still have to leave the apartment and make my way into the world. What’s up with that?

butternut squash and bell pepper soupThe baker’s muffin from City Bakery, some mimosas at home, homemade garlic knots (recipe soon!) and a clear winter day. Follow me on Instagram for more!

In order to avoid having to leave the office and go back out into said world for sustenance, I try to make sure I have lunches prepped for the week for Kramer and myself. This butternut squash and bell pepper soup was one of those lunches a few weeks back. I’m a huge bell pepper fan and eat them quite often, so when a big bag of them were on sale (why are bell peppers so expensive?) I was excited to roast them until slightly charred alongside a big butternut squash and puree them into a warming winter soup. The bell peppers add a nice, bright contrast to the creamy butternut squash, and I threw some caramelized garlic in there with some roasted onions because that’s how you add maximum flavor to any soup. You can feel free to garnish a big bowl of this with toasted pecans and chives, like I did, or get creative: maybe some big, homemade croutons would be good and add a nice texture, or chopped pistachios or even just a swirl of yogurt or cream for color and body. Whatever you do, you know butternut squash soup is going to be good, so add your spin and enjoy.

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Kung Pao Shrimp

with hot chili peppers

I made a version of this kung pao shrimp a few years back, but I figured in the spirit of a new year and new diets and all of that, now would be a good time to revisit the recipe and maybe spruce it up a bit. We all know that kung pao shrimp or kung pao chicken are about as far from traditional Chinese food as you can get, but despite that, I still have a soft spot for both in my heart because I’m American and this is the first kind of Chinese food we’re typically introduced to before we grow up and discover things like xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) or spicy Szechuan peppercorns. Some variety of Americanized shrimp was always on the table whenever my family would go out to eat Chinese food, usually honey walnut shrimp more often than kung pao, but both made an appearance when I was a kid. Of course, I was never interested in the shrimp as a child, so I’d pick around them to get at the sweet walnuts or crunchy peanuts until I was in college, at which point I couldn’t get enough shrimp. This kung pao shrimp may have been a bit too spicy for my tastes back when my family would go out for Chinese food together, but if you like things a little more mild, cut back on the chile peppers or hot chili sauce, and you’ll be good to go. Of course, you’re welcome to go the other route and completely douse your shrimp in as much hot sauce as you can handle. As long as you have a healthy portion of warm white rice at your side to combat any painfully spicy bites, you’re good to go.

kung pao shrimpDinner at Okonomi, my New Year’s Eve recovery kit (pizza + egg + coffee), another delicious breakfast made by Kramer and a big ol’ chocolate chip cookie made by yours truly. Get more by following me on Instagram!

Another reason I’m a fan of the bastardized Americanized Chinese food genre of cooking is that, in general, it can all be prepared pretty fast. Stir fry is always your friend, and when it comes to American style Chinese food, it’s pretty much either fast stir fries or something deep fried. You know, the basic food groups. Kung pao shrimp takes almost no time to cook, mostly because shrimp itself cooks very quickly. Just cook down your onions, add your sauce, let it thicken a bit, toss your shrimp in some cornstarch, add it to the pan, cook for another 6 or 7 minutes, toss with your peanuts and garnish with some scallions, and ta-da! Kung pao shrimp is yours to enjoy, just like takeout but without feeling like a bloated, over-salted mess once you’ve finished eating. Don’t get me wrong, Chinese take-out is a staple here in New York, but I only order it if I know that I won’t have to get off of the couch for the rest of the night, and if I can wear my most comfortable pair of sweatpants. In contrast, this recipe for kung pao shrimp is light and perfect for a quick weeknight dinner – the leftovers make a great lunch the next day, too.

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Crispy Sea Bass with Roasted Vegetables

"escalivada"

The holidays are officially o-v-e-r. I can’t believe it either. Every year there is all of this build-up and excitement surrounding winter and the holidays and ~sweater weather~, then New Year’s comes and goes and the majority of us are left standing, somewhat hungover and probably a little plumper, to face the beast that is January. I’ll bet January is the most depressing month of the year. You ate and drank too much in December, and you probably neglected a lot of day-to-day tasks in favor of fun. I get it. You need to do that every once in a while! It’s healthy. But that doesn’t make the cruel mistress that is January any easier. Now it’s time to face facts, start putting your laundry away again, unpack your suitcase, get back on that diet and head into the office. I suppose if we were all constantly drinking champagne and opening presents the allure would wear off eventually, but what I wouldn’t give for just one more cozy day on the couch! Oh well. Such is life. Join me in getting back to reality today, and remember, Saturday is only 5 days away!

crispy sea bass with roasted vegetables

Getting back into the swing of things is tough, especially when that means eating right. As previously stated, I’ve been enjoying my fair share of pizza and big bowls of noodles and sweet treats over the past two months, but now is the time to get back to it, and that means more veggies, less pasta and maybe hitting the gym a few times a week. This crispy sea bass with roasted vegetables is a great way to reset your eating habits and remind yourself that vitamins can be a good thing. I first learned of escalivada from Food52 (thanks, Marian!), and it’s been a staple in my apartment ever since. Simply roast eggplant, bell peppers and onions in a foil packet flooded with good olive oil and sea salt, then sprinkle with a little sherry vinegar, and maybe a touch more salt, and enjoy. The richness of these unassuming vegetables will blow you away, and while they are delicious all on their own, they pair beautifully with the crisp skinned sea bass, again, made with just a little salt, pepper, butter and lemon. The whole dish will awaken your palate and get you ready for the new year – this I can promise you.

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Cranberry Lime Tea Cake

with cinnamon

I hope that everyone enjoyed their New Year’s Eve celebrations! Kramer and I went to our friend Danny’s apartment for a party. We danced and played games and went to the roof to drink champagne and briefly watch the fireworks go off, before immediately heading back to the apartment because OH MY GOD it was freezing outside. I couldn’t feel my hands when we got back and they started thawing out. All in all, I think 2014 was a good year. Working at Business Insider has been awesome, the blog has been doing splendidly and I’ve gotten to do plenty of freelance work on the side, I’m continuing to improve my photography skills, and we got to do plenty of traveling. Kramer and I went to Thailand, the Catskills, Montreal, North Carolina, Washington, D.C. and even back home to Phoenix. 2015 has even more in store for us, so I can’t wait to get started. Most importantly, today marks our 5 year wedding anniversary. I can’t believe it’s been 5 years. I was truly a child bride, ha. Kramer was 22 and I was 21 when we got married, if you can believe it. Now we’re real life human adults, paying our own rent in New York City, working grown-up jobs and just generally being somewhat upstanding members of society. I won’t get too sentimental on you, because that’s not really my thing, but I think we’re pretty damn good together and I couldn’t imagine being married to a funnier, smarter, more supportive person than Kramer. Without him, I don’t know how I’d function, let alone watch as much TV as I do when I’m with him. That’s what love is really all about – liking the same shows. Ask anyone. So, here’s to another 5 years of Kramer awesomeness and to the rest of 2015!

cranberry lime tea cake

This is a cake made up of leftovers. Mainly, leftovers from the holidays. Leftover limes from countless gin and tonics. Leftover cranberries from baking and sides dishes over the past two months. Leftover flour, sugar and butter from all of the treats I’ve made for friends and family. Throw it all together and you get this light little tea cake, perfect for having as a quick breakfast in the morning or as a simple dessert in the evening. It’s a festive, colorful little cake, but it’s not laden with too much of this or that so as to make you feel overly full. I’d like to call it a transition cake, when you’re ready to start cutting out frosting and chocolate, but you’re not quite ready to go on a diet yet (that’s what Mondays are for). Kramer surprisingly adored this cake, having two whole slices, which is rare for him. I also brought it into my office where it was immediately demolished, so yeah, I think it was a success. Make it and see for yourself.

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Lime Meltaways

soft and delicate

I hope that everyone had a good holiday, or at least a good day off of work! Kramer and I are staying local, as we usually do. I really love how empty New York seems this time of year. I’m sure that there are tons of tourists in the expected neighborhoods, but my day-to-day interactions with humans decrease drastically during the holidays. It’s great. I’ve even gotten a seat on the subway to and from work each day, which is basically unheard of. On Christmas Eve, Kramer and I headed downtown for a few drinks and some intense rounds of LOST QuizUp, then we made our way over to the new location of Mission Chinese for our first of many feasts. We had sashimi with wasabi mushrooms, pea shoot dumplings, shredded chicken and papaya salad, kung pao pastrami and, my favorite, squid ink peanut noodles. Everything was fantastic, and my cocktail was especially good…something with gin and coconut milk and ginger…I’ll admit that we had consumed a few adult beverages prior to our meal. We got home early and immediately started watching Orphan Black, which I am obsessed with and I’m not even ashamed to admit that we’ve already finished both seasons as of last night. I wish that there was more to watch, but sadly we have to wait until this spring for the third season.

lime meltawaysKramer at Huertas (more on that later).

On Christmas Day, we met up with some friends to see The Interview. I enjoyed it – it’s certainly not the funniest movie to come out of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, but I laughed all the same. After the movie, we went to Clem’s for a few drinks, then to M. Shanghai for soup dumplings, pork belly and scallion pancakes. After dinner, we hit up one more bar, Second Chance Saloon, for some pool and beers to close out the night. I love that even on Christmas you can go out to eat and drink in New York. The bars were all having pot lucks, the restaurant was busy – it’s a good vibe. I was definitely feeling it the next day, but no matter – that’s what the holidays are all about! On Friday, we took it easy as a result, though. We saw The Gambler after work (what a disappointing movie), then grabbed some ramen from Samurai Papa and called it an early night.

lime meltaways

I made these meltaways before Christmas, obviously, but I think they’d still make a good little snack for any New Year’s Eve party, if you happen to be throwing one or going to one. As previously mentioned, we had a surplus of citrus at my office after our holiday party, so I made lemon curd rolls for my office with some of the lemons. With the limes, I made these cookies, which are simple enough to whip up quickly, yet good enough to garner positive reviews. Kramer had two, and he’s usually not a big sugar cookie guy. You can obviously make these with any citrus, like lemon or orange or grapefruit, but I think that the lime is perfect. They’re subtle enough to enjoy with any cocktail, plus the sprinkles make them perfectly festive for this time of year. If you’re planning to start “eating right” (whatever that means) in the New Year, hurry up and indulge now! I highly recommend starting with these cookies.

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