Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookie Tart

with cinnamon streusel

We woke up to some sort-of-surprise snow this morning in New York. I guess we didn’t miss winter after all! I was a little bummed to have missed the winter wonderland that was NYC after that first storm, but honestly, as soon as I looked out my window this morning, I regretted ever having those thoughts. Walking to work is going to be super fun today, guys! I can’t wait. I just have to dig my snow boots out of their (most likely) dusty cave, grab my warmest scarf, and get to trekking. Would it be a good investment to buy a pair of snow shoes? How do snow shoes work? Can I just strap some tennis rackets to my feet? Does anyone have a pair of tennis rackets that I can borrow? These are all important questions, and I’m sure you want answers as much as I do. Either way, the snow will melt, the sun is supposedly coming out later, and I’ll probably treat myself to something tasty for lunch because, hey, it’s snowing, and you know what? I deserve it. Now back to thinking warm, peaceful Thai beach-themed thoughts and possibly planning my next tropical getaway.

peanut butter and jelly cookie tartThinking warm thoughts from our Thailand trip.

I made this tart what seems like ages ago, but I’m not quite sure when. It was definitely before the holidays, which is why I’m only posting it now. I thought it fit nicely with today’s snowy weather. This is my ultimate idea of dessert. I’m a peanut butter fiend. If there is a jar anywhere near me, you can be sure that I’ve eaten two or three spoonfuls of it all on my own. Peanut butter is medicinal. Feel nauseous? Have a spoonful of peanut butter. Have a headache? Just eat a little bit of peanut butter. Need a quick bite before you head out the door but don’t have much time? Hit up that sweet, sweet peanut butter. I would definitely eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day if it wouldn’t turn me into a behemoth, and I long for those elementary school days when that was possible. Now, PB&J is a special treat, and how does it get any more special when it’s in tart form? This is an especially good dessert to bring to a gathering, because it’s both adult and kid friendly, and easy to slice and serve. You can use any flavor of jam that you like, but I really do recommend either a mixed berry jam or a strawberry jam, though I could see apricot being good, too. Pour yourself a tall glass of milk, or maybe even a flute of Prosecco, and enjoy.

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Loaded Baked Potato Dip

with bacon and chives

Well, I’m back! I feel as though I’ve been gone for forever. Our adventure overseas ending being extended by a few days due to the snowstorm that hit the East coast last week, so that added to my time away. I won’t lie – it was nice to have a few more days away from the usual day-to-day. The first leg of our trip was in Shanghai, where my brother teaches SAT prep classes. My parents, my brother, Kramer, and myself all flew out to see him together, and it was a blast. Shanghai is a trip, to say the least. People have this idea of New York City being the most exciting, hectic place in the world, but I’ve got to say, Shanghai certainly gives it a run for its money. My brother kept joking about New York being a “town” because of its size – Shanghai is home to over 14 million people, while NYC has just over eight million. After Shanghai, the family flew to Phuket, Thailand, where we spent five days relaxing on the beach, boating around to different islands, and drinking lots of Chang beer. It was glorious, and I swear that at one point, Kramer and I had tans (or at least, he did – I usually go from a translucent white color to a beige color, which is about as tan as I ever get). On our last day, though, Jonas was out in full force, and we started panicking a bit about getting home. Staying in Thailand for a longer period of time wasn’t really an option. Our flight was originally going to take us from Phuket to Beijing to Newark, but then the flight to Newark was cancelled. We were able to eventually secure a flight from Phuket to Seoul, Seoul to Tokyo, and then Tokyo to Newark, but, wouldn’t you know it, the flight from Tokyo to Newark was cancelled. We sat in the airport in Seoul, trying to figure out what to do, as though we had options, and came to terms with the idea that we’d be spending three days in Tokyo until we could get on the first flight out. However, Tokyo is my absolute number one favorite place ever, so I was secretly really excited. I felt bad missing more work, and was really grateful to my coworkers who helped pick up my slack, but bonus: three days in Tokyo! I’ll be sharing lots of photos from my trip over the next week or two, I’m sure, but I hope that everyone has had a great 2016 so far, and hey, it’s already February! Time sure does fly.

loaded baked potato dip

My brothers, Kramer, and myself keeping it casual in Shanghai.

So, seeing as how it’s already freaking February, it’s time for Super Bowl food. I’m talking cheesy pretzel dogs, spicy salsa, and maybe for dessert, some peanut butter brownies. What you really need for a great Super Bowl party, though, is dip. Lots of dip. May I even suggest this Loaded Baked Potato Dip? It’s the perfect thing to serve alongside some crunchy carrots, peppery radishes, cooling celery, or even, and stay with me here, thick-cut steak fries. The warm, salty fries dipped into the garlicky, bacon-filled potato dip is what Super Bowl snacking dreams were made of, I can promise you that. I’ve partnered up with the US Potato Board to bring you this dip recipe, and I’m super excited to do it. They’ve already got tons of tasty party recipes on their website if you need more ideas, but I implore you to give this one a shot. All you need to do is bake a potato, mash it up, mix it together with a few extra ingredients, and boom – tasty, cheesy baked potato dip is yours no time at all. Bonus: even if you are indulging a bit with Super Bowl Sunday’s notoriously delicious snacks, you can at least feel good knowing that you made this dip all by yourself. Look at you, you ambitious go-getter. Go ahead and have another fry. Happy Game Day and happy eating!

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Low-Carb Cabbage Rolls

with eggplant and mushrooms

Back to life, back to reality. That’s how the old saying goes, isn’t it? I didn’t go anywhere over the break, but a lot of other people did, so things seemed to move a little slower, work was a little more relaxed, and therefore, so was I. It’ll probably take a week or two to pick up and get everyone moving at the same pace that we were before December, but thankfully, I can avoid all of that because Kramer and I head to Shanghai, then Phuket (in Thailand), a week from today! I’m so excited I could burst. We haven’t had a break since summer, so we’re ready to disconnect and chill for a while. My brother lives in Shanghai, and we haven’t seen him since he moved this past May (I think it was May, anyhow), so I’m extra pumped to see him and have him show us around his new city. I want to eat soup dumplings the size of my head, drink lots of Tsingtao, and find myself surrounded by Peking duck. My parents and other brother, who lives in Baltimore, are going too, so it’ll be fun to have the whole family together for the first time in over two years. My dad has been to China more times that he can probably count, so I’m sure he’ll want to show Kramer and I (the only people in our family who have never been) all around. I’ve got my visa and my passport ready – now we just have to wait. I also need to load up on good books and podcasts. Any suggestions other than Serial?

low carb cabbage rolls

Christmas dinner, the-day-after-Christmas dinner, Christmas breakfast (thanks Kramer!), and what I’m sadly eating now to try and counteract all of that shitty eating. See more on the ol’ Instagram!

As you can see above, I ate a lot during the holidays. Chinese food, Korean food, cookies, pancakes, pizza – you name it, I ate it. Now it’s time to put away the carbs before our vacation. A week probably isn’t enough time to go on a serious diet, but it’s enough time to me to pretend to, so that’s what I’m doing. We’re cutting back on carbs and not drinking any beer, which is really all that I can do as far as dieting goes, so these cabbage rolls are a part of that. There’s a place near our apartment called Masha and the Bear, where they make really delicious cabbage rolls, but of course, they are stuffed with both meat and rice. Seeing as how rice is a no-no right now, I made up for it in these with eggplant and mushrooms. This is one of Kramer’s favorite things to eat, and seeing as how it’s relatively good for you, I’m happy to make it. I’ve tried this recipe a few different ways, one of which was to not bother cooking the tomato sauce beforehand, but I really think cooking it and letting it simmer for a bit before adding it to the dish is really important, as it draws some of the water out and gives it a richer flavor. If you don’t cook the sauce first, it’ll be really watery when you’re done – sorry, guys! I promise it’s worth a little extra effort, and hey, you can stuff these guys with just about anything, from spinach to kale to zucchini to whatever. If you’re vegetarian, do a mixture of mushrooms, eggplant, and tofu. No matter what you do with this, you’ll be eating happily and healthily in 2016!

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Leftover Cookies

add in just about anything

I had a pretty great Christmas. We went over to our friend Jeena and Jyoti’s apartment, where Jyoti made a full English breakfast for Christmas Eve dinner with all the fixin’s. There was everything: buttered toast, fried eggs, sausages, bacon, beans, and mushrooms, and she even went to a special British store to get “the good stuff,” as she put it. It was weirdly warm that night, so we even got to eat outside, if you can believe it. In New York! On December 24th! Dining al fresco. So weird. After dinner, we proceeded to drink a lot of sake and beer and play games until we were tired and full and ready for bed. On Christmas Day, we woke up early-ish, Kramer made another breakfast, this time with eggs, avocado, and regular American bacon (which I’m equally happy with), then we were off to see The Hateful Eight with Jyoti and Jeena. I really loved it. After the movie, we went on the hunt for Chinese food, but this being New York, most good restaurants are totally packed on Christmas Day. We waited in line for a while at Golden Unicorn, but we were seated right as they stopped serving dim sum, and while I love me some good Chinese food, I was really in the mood for something special. We decided to high-tail it over to Shanghai Cafe for soup dumplings, which really hit the spot. We also had scallion pancakes, fried rice, lo mein, stir-fried eggplant, bok choy in garlic sauce, rice cakes with fermented cabbage, Szechuan wontons, and probably a few other things that I’m forgetting. The crab soup dumplings really have my heart, though. The next night, we decided to let it ride. We went all-out with big beers and super-sweet cocktails at Dave and Busters, where we played arcade games and won a lava lamp with our tickets. We may have immediately broken the bulb for said lava lamp, but I’ll order a new one, I promise. After games, we grabbed a beer while waiting to be seated at Pocha 32, where we ordered a giant Korean feast of spicy rice cakes, fried chicken, fried dumplings, seafood pancakes, and spicy pork with kimchi, washed down, of course, with plenty of cold beer and slightly sweet makgeolli. After dinner, we waddled back to our apartment for our annual Christmas viewing of Die Hard, accompanied by more beers. Now, of course, it’s freezing and raining and I can hear the 99 Cent owner next door to our apartment scraping the sidewalk free of last night’s sleet. Nothing gold can stay, I suppose, but I’m ready for a real winter, even if that means busting out my snow boots and shivering on my way into work.

leftover cookies

These are my favorite cookies, as I’m sure I’ve previously explained, but the best part about them is that you can literally put anything in the cookie dough. It’s resilient and nearly un-screw-up-able. Take it from me – I’ve made these cookies after a long day of work, when I’m not entirely paying attention and too distracted by whatever’s on TV, or on a Sunday morning after a long night out. As long as you follow the basic recipe, you’re golden. So, why not take all of your leftover candy and cookies and whatever else is in your cupboard from this past holiday season, chop it all up, and dump it into a giant bowl of cookie dough? I used pumpkin and black cat sprinkles from Halloween, some leftover chocolate that I chopped up, holiday-themed sugar cookies from this milkshake that I made, and, of course, crushed up candy canes. Go nuts. Add whatever you want. All of the different textures and flavors are what make these cookies unique. Do you still have leftover candy from trick-or-treating? Are there lots of nuts and dried fruits leftover from Thanksgiving snacking? Do you have more candy canes than you know what to do with? Throw them all in together and make a monster cookie of your own. As long as there is plenty of chocolate to tie everything together, you’ve got a recipe for deliciousness – that I can promise.

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Lemon Chess Pie

bright + custardy

In the never-ended kitchen screw ups that comprise my life, I made two pies yesterday. Why? Partially because I am insane, because on top of making pies, I had a shitload of actual work-work to do (work work is work that needs to get done for my full-time, real-life job). Another reason was because I needed to make a pie today for this #pieitforward group project that I am working on with tons of awesome, way more talented bloggers. They would all surely have gorgeous pies ready to post this morning. I, on the other hand, was stuck with a pie that was too damn big to fit into the Pie Box it was supposed to fit in. After staring at my giant, delicious-looking pie for about 10 minutes, looking at it, then at Kramer, then back at it, then back at Kramer, I decided that my worst fears had been realized: time to make more pie crust and figure out what ingredients I had handy in order to make pie numero dos. I made a lemon chess pie earlier this year, and it was met with rave reviews, so I figured, let’s do this thing again. It’s almost like a lemon custard pie, or somewhere between a pudding and a custard. It’s creamy, slightly tart, and absolutely perfect. Thankfully, I hadn’t actually shot this pie for my blog yet, so it was almost as if it was meant to be. Luckily, this pie fit perfectly. Thank god. I don’t know if I would have had the energy to make a third pie. I’m planning to bring one to my local bodega, but does anyone else want an extra pie?

lemon chess pieChocolate chunk cookies, chocolate espresso cake, pizza, and bread. Lots of bread.

So, now, ’tis the season and all that. Kramer and I have been working non-stop for a few weeks now, as I’m sure many of you have. It’s been really stressful, to say the least. I know most nights we should try to stay in, relax, go to bed early, but it’s all too tempting to blow off steam after a long day at work, so we often go out to meet friends for a drink or go see a late movie or something, go to bed late, wake up tired, rinse, and repeat. I think now that it’s finally the week of Christmas and people are taking vacations, we’ll be able to clean house a bit, put a bow on whatever we’ve been working on, and try to chill. My brother is coming up from Baltimore on Thursday, so we’ll get to see him, go check out Hateful Eight and whatever other movies we’re feeling, eat some dim sum, and hopefully have a glass of eggnog or warm cider (or three). Maybe I’ll freeze some of these pies for when we come home after a few drinks and need a midnight snack. Good idea, Sydney. You’re a genius.

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Milkshake

with whipped cream

Sometimes it makes me really sad that I don’t have more time to spend on my blog. I really miss being able to post a couple of times a week. I know that nobody is wringing their hands over this, banging on tables and d-e-m-a-n-d-i-n-g more, but still, it was nice to channel my energy here. Not that I’m not being creative elsewhere – work is going really well, and even though I’m so busy that I can barely figure out what to do first half the time, I’m getting to do a lot of photography and baking and cooking and whatnot, so it’s not as though I’m sitting behind a desk all day doing really boring, black and white stuff. But I still liked having my own thing. I think that once this week is over, people will be in holiday mode, and I’ll be able to chill out a bit, maybe post a little more often. We’ll see. After that, we’re headed to Shanghai and Thailand in mid-January, so that will be a bit of a relief, as well. And either way, nothing else matters because STAR WARS COMES OUT TODAY. Kramer and I are seeing it at 7. I’m in this weird mood where I’m not quite jumping off the walls, but I did just spend my morning watching Oscar Isaac sing and Googling other non-spoilery things about the cast so I can prepare myself for the blast of awesome that is about to hit me. STAR WARS!

chocolate chip cookie milkshake

So, anyway, other than trying to figure all that out, I am kind of over the sunshine and warm weather we’ve been having in New York. I’m ready for at least a little snow. Christmas is almost here and I feel like I live in California. I’m sure this means we’re in for a freezing January and February, though. That’s my very unscientific opinion. Until then, I suppose, I’ll keep my winter coat in my closet and drink milkshakes. Dylan’s Candy Bar sent me some cute holiday-themed cookies and chocolate bars last month, but I was struggling to come up with something fun to make with them because they weren’t typical “ingredients.” I considered making cupcakes, but thought it’d be a bit disjointed. I was talking about it with a friend at a bar, and he suggested a milkshake. Perfect! I had already made chocolate chip cookies at home, so why not make a super meta-milkshake and use milk and cookies ice cream, milk and cookies chocolate, and actual cookies? Awesome. And let’s be real – who doesn’t just love a milkshake? They make you feel like a kid again – there’s just something about drinking a thick, creamy milkshake out of a straw, then pulling the straw up and having a little bit of whipped cream, or deciding if you should eat the cherry on top right away, halfway through the consumption of said shake, or save it for the end. Decisions, decisions.

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Sufganiyot (Jelly Doughnuts)

with fig and berry jam

Happy Hanukkah, y’all! Kramer and I aren’t really religious, per say, but we do enjoy all of the food that comes with each respective holiday, so here we are. This past weekend, our friend Chandan came over and cooked us coq au vin while Kramer and I kind of putzed around, but I did make latkes to eat with homemade applesauce that our friend Travis made for us, so we definitely got into the spirit of the holiday. For dessert, we ate these sufganiyot, which I had eaten plenty of times myself, but never made before. Who doesn’t love a jelly doughnut, especially when they’re fresh from the fryer? I opted to fill these bad boys with fig jam that I’ve had in my fridge for forever, and then I filled a few with berry. Over the course of two days, and between five people, we demolished all 16 or so of these. ‘Tis the season to get fat, as I always say. I do think that this recipe is easier than it may seem, and the dough is an absolute dream (don’t you wish I would rhyme all the time?). It comes together quickly and easily, it isn’t sticky or messy, and it fries up like perfect little pillowy clouds. I kind of want to try baking these and making them into a biscuit-like doughnut thing – I’m not 100% sure yet. Outlook uncertain, try back later. However, if you are just looking for a great doughnut recipe, for Hanukkah or otherwise, you’ve come to the right place, let me tell you what. Fill them with whatever jam, pastry cream, chocolate concoction, or whatever else you please, and eat happily.

sufganiyot
Thanksgiving burritos that I made for MUNCHIES last week, my favorite biscuits (and my brother hand modeling), kimchi fried eggs, and bagels from Black Seed.

Shockingly, we’re mid-way through Hanukkah, Christmas is just around the corner, and then we’ve got New Year’s Eve. It’s going to be 2016 before we know it, guys. This time of year always seems to fly by, but really, I think that as I get older, time just flies by in general. That’s sort of scary, I guess, when you think about it. It makes me want to do two things simultaneously. First, it makes me want to slow down. Take some time to smell the roses, appreciate what’s going on in my life, not worry so much about lists and responsibilities and just enjoy where I am and what kind of life I’m leading. Things are, for the most part, pretty, pretty, pretty good. On the other hand, it makes me want to do more! Speed up! There’s so much to accomplish and seemingly, so little time. I’m already 27. 30 isn’t that far away! Come to think of it, neither is 40. And my knees already hurt, and I think I have the beginnings of carpal tunnel in my right wrist. And where did all of those grey hairs start coming from? The clock’s ticking! So that’s where I’m at. A little torn between trying to enjoy life as much as possible and trying to kick things into high gear and accomplish a lot more than is probably reasonable in some short period of time. I know I’m not alone in this. Kramer, my friends, we’re all in the same boat. I blame the Internet, which is both my best friend and my mortal enemy. Whatever, no time for this – I need to get all of my holiday shopping done. And eat a doughnut.

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Marbled Peppermint Crunch Cake

with chocolate ganache

Hoo boy, it’s already December. Hannukah starts on Sunday (get those brisket recipes ready), then Christmas follows shortly after. Then what? 2016? It’s hard to believe. Before we get into New Year’s resolutions and Happy New Years and all of that, though, we’ve got to get some end-of-the-year eating done, don’t we? You’ve worked hard this year. You went to the gym a few times. You deserve a treat, even if you overdid it a bit at Thanksgiving last week. Don’t worry about it it! It’s cold outside, nobody can see that extra cushion, and besides, you need it to keep warm. That’s going to be my philosophy until January 1st, when I am going to need to seriously chill on the eating bonanza because we’re going to Thailand and I don’t want to look too scary when I’m laying out on the beach. But we’ve got plenty of time for that. For now, I’m going to have my cake and eat it too – specifically, this Marbled Peppermint Crunch Cake with Chocolate Ganache. Happy Holidays, y’all.

peppermint crunch cakeHoliday eats from my InstagramPeter Pan Donuts, Roberta’s, Saturday afternoon panini, and biscuits from The Bounty.

This cake was something I made for Urban Outfitters, and I’m really happy with it. I was really inspired by the props they sent me to use, especially the beautiful wooden cutting board and the sparkly twinkle lights. I wanted to make something that reminded me of the holidays, of winter, and really, of snow. We probably won’t get snow until well after the holidays here in New York, because nature hates us and wants us to suffer after we’re all sick of being cold and feeling “joy”, but no matter. This cake is awesome. It’s got layers of rich, chocolate cake, creamy peppermint buttercream, crunchy peppermint candies, and, of course, a final layer of chocolate ganache. I layered the buttercream and ganache for a “marbled” look, and I think it turned out pretty well for someone who is not necessarily the world’s best cake decorator. I brought this whole cake into my office, because I’m insane, and it was gone almost as fast as I put it out. I work in a younger office, so it was described by my colleagues as “dope” and “sick”, which are how the kids today describe good things these days, so I hope you enjoy it as much as they did.

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