Chewy Chai Snickerdoodles

with crunchy cinnamon-sugar

It seems that all of my friends are coming out with cookbooks this year, which is awesome because it means I get to beef up my collection. It also means that I need another bookshelf, but we’ll worry about that later. My buddy Adrianna from A Cozy Kitchen recently released her book, The Year of Cozy, and I have to say that I absolutely love it. It’s full of great recipes, of course, but it’s more than that – it’s got lifestyle tips that are actually relevant to my interests, like how to make your own salt cellar, how to package fun food gifts, and how to have a staycation. Yes, please, to all three. How she is an amazing cook and general how-to-live-your-best-life guru, I’ll never know, but she also has a really cute corgi, whose photos are sprinkled throughout the book as well, so you should definitely grab a copy if just for that. Anywho, I saw these Chewy Chai Snickerdoodles in the book and I have to give them a go. It’s almost the time of year where you’re ready to go baking crazy, making cookies and cakes and pies and all of that for friends and neighbors and bosses that need a little sweetening up – why not start with these? Everybody loves chai, be it that sickeningly-sweet concoction you get from Starbucks (i.e. my preferred elixir of life in college) or the really good, spicy stuff you can get from your neighborhood’s specialty market. I know some people that even make their own chai mix at home, passed down from their parents and now making their own kitchens smell like fragrant oases (that is apparently the plural for oasis – I looked it up). However you enjoy usually enjoy chai, this is a step beyond the rest. The outsides of the cookies are perfectly crispy, while the insides are wonderfully chewy, and the chai flavor really comes through, which is why I highly recommend dunking these suckers in a tall glass of cold milk, you know, for the full effect. Happy baking season! I can smell the cinnamon and cloves already.

chewy chai snickerdoodlesMe (haiii), on a photo shoot with Marcus Samuelsson (!!!), having some drinks in the neighborhood, and the final product of another photo shoot with Jamie Bissonnette (!!!). Life is good.

I suppose I haven’t update you guys on other aspects of my life recently, but to be honest work has kept me incredibly busy and I struggle to find time to do normal, everyday things, like laundry or brushing my hair or putting said laundry away. Ugh, I hate laundry. Where’s my laundry robot? While it’s been really hectic, at least I’m doing some really cool stuff, photos of which I absolutely cannot wait to share. I’ve been on photo shoots with Jamie Bissonnette, Marcus Samuelsson, Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske, Kenji Lopez-Alt, Angela Dimayuga and Sam Anderson from Mission Chinese, and so many more. It’s kind of awe-inspiring. These people are amazing at what they do, and I’ve been getting to head into their kitchens with my camera and take photos of them while they do their thing. I’m really proud of the pictures that I’ve taken, and I hope that they love them as much as I’ve loved taking them. I hope that this will continue to be a major part of my job – finally being able to take photos for at least part of my actual, full-time gig has been a dream of mine for a really long time and being able to do it blows my mind a little bit. If you don’t already read MUNCHIES on a regular basis, please do so, and you’ll see my photos pop up from time to time! Life update over.

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Big Crumb Apple Muffins

with cinnamon-sugar

CONGRATULATIONS to Sarah from The Sugar Hit on her new book, The Sugar Hit!: Sweets That Pack a Punch. I have been a huge fan of Sarah’s for years and years, so it is so exciting to see her beautiful book, with its big, colorful photos and drool-worthy recipes. Every single one is fun, interesting, and begging to be baked. I want to also commend her for writing out the recipes in standard American cups and tablespoons, as well as in weight – that couldn’t have been easy. Sarah sent me a copy of her book to check out before it was released, and it was tough to flip through and just pick one thing to post (in truth, I’ve picked two, so the other will be posted later on). To start, though, I wanted to make these big crumb apple muffins, as Sarah states in the book that it’s her ode to New York City, and seeing as how I live here, I figured it only made sense for me to be the one to make them. Let me tell you, they live up to their name. I followed her instructions and made the muffins in a jumbo muffin tin, which I rarely do because I only have one pan, so I have to wait for one batch to finish baking before I can make another, but it was worth it. These muffins are the size of your face, with big, crunchy, cinnamon-y pieces of crumb topping to match. ‘Tis the season for apples and cinnamon. I know in Australia, where Sarah lives, it’s probably starting to get warmer while here in New York it’s just starting to cool off, but wherever you live, it’s always a good time for a big, NYC-style bakery muffin, isn’t it? So, once again, congratulations, Sarah! Be sure to pick up a copy of her book if you want to bake over-the-top, wonderfully delicious treats. I promise I was not paid or compensated to say this, either – it’s just the truth.

big crumb apple muffinsDane and Rachel nervously cheers-ing (that’s a word) as we watched Kramer and Eric kayak out to their certain doom.

Muffins aside (although they are so big it’s kind of hard to do that), I realized I never shared these photos from our trip to Virginia beach last month. These are some of my favorites, as it shows my husband and my brother-in-law acting like dummies, and that’s always fun. One of the days we were at the beach, the weather was touch-and-go, so we went to the aquarium and grabbed some wings at a bar, but afterward, Kramer and Eric decided they wanted to take the kayak out into the ocean on a day when the water was definitely at its choppiest. Rachel (my sister-in-law AKA Kramer’s sister) and I weren’t super psyched about our husbands getting into a tiny kayak and paddling out into the water, but they adamant, so we grabbed some beers and headed out to watch them flip the kayak over a handful of times, struggling to stay upright and actually make any traction against wave after incoming wave. Obviously, they were fine and came back to shore, after which we headed back to the house to make margaritas and watch Broken Arrow, as you are wont to do after a big day of ‘yakin.

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Spiced Pumpkin Pecan Bread

with cinnamon

It’s already Thursday, but I still want to say that Kramer and I had a really great weekend this past week. On Friday night, our friends Shahab and Catherine had us over for dinner, where they went all out making Maryland-style crabs. Shahab made corn fritters, peel-and-eat shrimp, potatoes, corn, and, of course, Old Bay seasoned blue crabs. Everything was delicious, and we maybe had one more glass of wine than we should have had, but it’s hard to stop when you’re hanging out and eating. You always need one more glass. The table was even coated with paper and the crabs and shrimp were spread out over it – this was the real deal. Saturday morning, we found the strength to get up early and hit the road with our friends Matt and Amanda to attend a wedding in New Jersey. Our friends Taylor and Sanji were getting married, and it was the first Indian wedding I’d ever been to. Obviously, it was awesome. Taylor rode in on a white horse, everyone was wearing traditional, colorful saris, and there was more food than you’d know what to do with. I had to try to pace myself because there was, of course, a ton of dancing to do, and shockingly, jumping around and dancing with a stomach full of spicy Indian food doesn’t tend to end well. I managed to not totally stuff myself, danced a ton, ate cake, and all around had a great time. In the morning, the first order of business was to hit up IHOP for post-wedding pancakes, then we came home and had to go out for at least one or two beers at a bar with outdoor seating because the weather has just been so beautiful, and I know that’s not going to last. Fall, we hardly knew ye, is what I’m sure I’ll be saying in two weeks when I’m freezing my face off in yet another New York winter.

spiced pumpkin pecan breadCrabs that our friend Shahab made, delicious food from a wedding we went to this past weekend, IHOP breakfast after said wedding, and a peanut butter crunch cone from Van Leeuwen Ice Cream.

So, seeing as how fall is here, that means it’s pumpkin season and all you manic pumpkin-heads can finally rejoice and gorge on pumpkin-flavored everything. As a food blogger, I am, of course, required to feed into this country’s insane pumpkin addiction, which isn’t totally unwarranted, I’ll admit. Pumpkin treats are delicious, and should probably be eaten for breakfast at least once a week as soon as the leaves start to change. That’s why when Maui Brand Sugar approached me about creating a recipe for them, I knew it had to be pumpkin, and it had to be breakfast appropriate. Enter this spiced pumpkin pecan bread. It’s packed with pure pumpkin flavor and a moist crumb, but still has plenty of texture from the chopped pecans and crunchy, raw sugar topping. I love how the sprinkling of raw sugar on the top of this loaf of bread cracked slightly while baking, giving it that wonderfully rustic look that you want in fall-themed baked goods. My favorite way to eat a quick bread like this is with a giant cup of coffee in the morning, preferably on a day where I woke up early enough to give myself some time to read the news, maybe catch up on some blog stuff, and leisurely get ready for work. That doesn’t always happen, but when it does, I’m grateful to have something tasty to munch on while I start my day. Alternatively, this wouldn’t be half bad warmed up in the microwave slightly with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream. Dream big, kids, dream big.

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Steak and Eggs

a sous-vide experiment

Hi ya! I feel like I’ve been gone for a while. Well, I know I’ve been gone for a while, but it’s so hard to get back into the swing of things after a vacation, plus catching up on work and other aspects of life is always exhausting, so I took a little break. But, sadly for you, it’s not easy to get rid of me, so here I am. Kramer and I had a wonderful trip to DC and Virginia Beach. The drive wasn’t so bad (though that’s easy for me to say because I didn’t actually do any driving), and it was fun taking some back roads and avoiding the highway in favor of beautiful scenery. We met up with some friends in DC, then headed down with my brother to Virginia Beach to see Kramer’s family. I will say that it wasn’t quite the same without his Aunt Beth there, but I think she would have been proud of the way we attempted to keep the house in order, even without her far superior organization and all-around fun-having skills. I know she would have approved of all of the cocktails we made, and I tried to make a version of her famous Caesar salad, but I ended up using pita chips as croutons and I know she would have laughed hysterically at that. We still miss her so much, but I know the last thing she would have wanted was a house full of mourners. So we had fun. We did a lot of cooking and grilling, spent a lot of time in the pool (obviously), laid on the beach for hours, and even did a little fishing (photos to come). It was a great vacation and, as all vacations are, much too short. I can’t wait for next year.

steak and eggs

Kramer’s dad got us a sous-vide stick last year, but I’ve been intimidated by it ever since. It seems like it’s this fancy piece of technology that is far beyond my cooking capabilities, but guess what? It’s super easy. Like really, really easy. I can’t believe I put off using it for so long. It’s amazing. Cooking steaks without it is out of the question for me, now. Honestly. You just seal your meat in a bag, heat your water to whatever temperature is required for your piece of meat, then let it sit there for a few hours while it cooks. It’s different than a slow-cooker in that there is no direct heat. You’ve actually got to try to overcook or destroy whatever you’re making with a sous-vide, so you can be certain you’re never going to ruin that expensive steak when using this method. I know it seems like a lot, but trust me – you’re never going to go back to just cooking steak in the pan after you try it. After you pull the steaks from the bag, you just need to sear them on all sides for 30 seconds or so, to get a nice crust. I added a healthy slathering of mayonnaise to my steaks to achieve a perfectly dark crust, and you don’t necessarily have to do that, but I highly recommend it. The fat really makes a difference in searing the steaks. Go ahead and do one with and one without mayonnaise and tell me the mayonnaise one isn’t better, I dare you. If you are a serious home cook and you want to up your steak game (among other things), do yourself a favor and just splurge on a sous-vide. Look at that perfectly cooked steak. It’s worth it!

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Summer Peach Pie

with an all-butter crust

We made it to DC and after some good food, good drinks and good friends, we’re off to Virginia Beach with my brother in tow. Last night, we met up with some friends who live in town. We were originally going to go to Rose’s Luxury, but I decided that I didn’t want to spend half the night in the city we were in for only one evening waiting in line to go to a restaurant, even though I’ve heard it was awesome. Instead, we started at Eat the Rich for some oysters, hush puppies, and “redneck caviar”, which was salmon roe with potato chips (see: amazing). After that, we popped over to Mockingbird Hill for some sherry, Spanish ham, and cheese. We bar hopped around a little bit, then ended up at Two Birds, One Stone, which I had been to before and really liked. After that, Kramer and I returned to our hotel, then realized we needed water and wanted to grab a few beers, so we walked for a while in the wrong direction toward a store, only to find that it was closed, so we walked to another store, only to find that they didn’t have beer. We took that as a sign, bought two giant bottles of water and went to bed. Thanks for the good night, DC! Now it’s off to the beach for surf, sand, and waves.

summer peach pie

I wanted to share this peach pie recipe because it’s almost the end of summer and nothing says SUMMER! like a big, beautiful, juicy peach pie. I feel like we don’t see enough peach pies. I have a bit of a pie obsession. I also thought this would be the perfect thing to make in conjunction with this project I’m doing with Naked Juice about food deserts. A food desert is an urban neighborhood or rural town without access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Wholesome Wave and Naked Juice are teaming up to present Drink Good. Do Good to raise awareness of this serious problem that affects nearly 24 million American citizens. I’m happy to be a part of this campaign, as it’s a cause near and dear to my heart. You’d be shocked to learn how hard it is to find quality, nutritious foods in even the most population-dense areas. I’ve seen it in neighborhoods that I live in in New York, where I’ve personally had to go into different areas of Brooklyn or Queens in order to get real, whole foods. Honestly. It’s sad, and the more people are aware of food deserts and how they impact people across the country, the quicker we can help make a difference. Believe me, I love a good farmer’s market, but they can’t only be available to certain neighborhoods. We need real food available to real people in every neighborhood in the US. Check out #DrinkGoodDoGood on Twitter and Instagram and post a photo of yourself holding a fruit or vegetable to raise awareness of food deserts. Then, maybe, you can make that fruit into a pie.

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Cheesy Chicken and Rice Bake

with zucchini

Vacation, here we come! I’m so ready, especially for our road trip. I’ve got my phone loaded with new episodes of my favorite podcasts, and I even threw some music on there for Kramer, who gets sick of my podcast obsession really quickly (ugh), and right now we’re eating omelets before we head out on our little adventure. I think we’re going to try to get into Rose’s Luxury in DC tonight – we’ll see. I’m not sure how packed it usually gets. I assume very, but we’re an old, married couple who have no problem eating the blue plate special at 6 PM, so maybe we’ll luck out. Additionally, if anyone has any recommendations for places to eat in Virginia Beach or on the drive from DC to Virginia Beach, we’re all ears! We’ve got quite the drive ahead of us, so I’m sure we’ll stop somewhere halfway to stretch our legs. We’re picking up my brother in DC, too, so I’ll have someone to side with against Kramer, who would generally rather die than have to make a stop while driving anywhere. He’s a man of action, but I get really excited when I see a Cracker Barrel, so, ya’ know – what can you do? Sorry, Kramer – I’m going to that Cracker Barrel.

cheesy chicken and rice bakeFresh whipped cream, fruit and espresso at our friend’s apartment on Sunday, and making sun tea at work with Large Marge Cooks.

This is the last recipe in my five recipe series with Tabasco and their #TABASCO10 project! It was really fun to push myself to make these recipes using only 10 ingredients, as well as posting them all so close together. I’m usually so swamped with work and other things, that posting two times a week is even a bit of a struggle for me, but somehow I made this work. I don’t think I’ll be making a habit of it, because I definitely eschewed other things in order to get these recipes done, but it’s good to know that I can do it! Thanks to all of the other bloggers and, most importantly, i am a food blog, for cooking with me and inspiring me to get my act together. For my last dish, I decided I’d do something warm and comforting, since the season seems to be changing, it’s a little cooler in New York, and I’m ready to forget about the beach and drape myself in a nice, cozy sweater. Cheesy chicken and rice bake, anyone? This recipe is versatile and easy to put together, plus you can swap out any veggies for the zucchini, or even sub out the chicken for extra vegetables – may I suggest eggplant or sweet potatoes? And, as the old saying goes, everything’s better with cheese on top, so the bubbling mozzarella cheese here makes this a casserole everyone will love. Ease into the next season and get ready for bakes, casseroles, and cheesy goodness! The time has come.

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Crispy Fried Fennel

crunchy and peppery

This is it – one more day until vacation! Kramer and I are driving to DC tomorrow for the first leg of our trip, and shockingly I’m not totally terrified. After we left Arizona, I never wanted to step foot in a car again. Of course, I’m never nervous in a cab. I feel totally safe in a cab. Like that Seinfeld bit goes, I view these people are professionals. They know what they’re doing, and not short-stopping or rounding of tight curves is going to get me to believe otherwise. When Kramer or a friend is driving, though, I immediately freak out, be it internally, or externally, with me being that annoying backseat driver, warning whoever is behind the wheel that they are tail-gaiting or that there is another car in their blind spot. I’ve gotten a lot better about it, though, mostly because over the past year, Kramer and I have started to rent cars more often and drive places, rather than take Metro-North or Amtrak. It’s actually kind of nice, now. We get to pick our music, pick the car we want to drive in, we can control the air conditioning, and the views are generally pretty remarkable. I don’t want to say that I am totally over my fear of being a passenger, but I’m getting there. I think. Kramer might disagree, but what does he know?

crispy fried fennelGrapefruit and mint syrup made with mint from the garden at work, and my post-hike reward on Saturday afternoon.

Welcome to Day FOUR (I can’t believe it) of the five day #TABASCO10 challenge. In this challenge, i am a food blog and Tabasco, who sponsored this series, asked myself, along with a bunch of other super talented bloggers, to create five recipes over the course of five days using only 10 ingredients. The ingredients, other than Tabasco hot sauce, of course, were chicken, mozzarella, eggs, rigatoni, rice, honey, zucchini, ciabatta, and, obviously, fennel. I absolutely adore fennel, and I really wanted to fry it, but sadly, I had no access to breadcrumbs or flour. But I did have ciabatta! And eggs! So I made my own breadcrumbs and fried away. I wasn’t sure how these were going to turn out, and they certainly aren’t super pretty, but if you like buffalo wings or other fried sports-watching foods, then I think you might like these. I love the peppery bite that each piece of fennel brings, and the crunchiness of the fried breading is just what you need while you’re watching TV, be it football or your favorite sitcom. If you’re making wings this upcoming football season, then maybe you’ll consider making these, too, for those vegetarian friends of yours. I think even the meat eaters will be thanking you. Don’t forget to dip them in plenty of hot sauce! They were made to be dipped.

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Zucchini & Fennel Frittata

with mozzarella cheese

I make a lot of frittatas. Kramer and I are big on eggs, as I’m sure a lot of you kindred spirits are, as well. They just make everything so easy. Have a bunch of cheese and some random proteins? Throw ’em in an omelet. Leftover, almost stale bread? Toast it up, throw a fried egg on it, and watch it come back to life. Do you need a quick, but filling breakfast? Eggs only take about 2 minutes to scramble, then throw some salt and maybe a little avocado on the side, and you’re good to go. The possibilities are endless, and so, we eat a lot of eggs. Sometimes I worry that maybe there’s that whole cholesterol thing to worry about, but then I remember that every week one study says eggs are actually REALLY GOOD FOR YOU GUYS IT’S TRUE and then the next week, it’s all WATCH OUT EGGS WANT TO KILL YOU. I don’t really know what to believe, but I do know that eggs are incredibly delicious, and generally pretty healthy. Besides, I live in New York City. A lot of other things in this town have a higher likelihood of pushing me to meet my maker than eggs do. So, I’m gonna keep eating eggs. Lots and lots of eggs. Who’s with me? Hello, frittas. Good morning, sunny-side up. Nice to see you, sous-vide.

zucchini fennel frittataMaking bitters at the office with Mission Chinese and carrots from the MUNCHIES garden.

This is day three of the #TABASCO10 challenge. I’m so proud of myself for making it this far. As you probably know, I’m generally ridiculously busy, so finding a way to post five days in a row is kind of insane, but here I am. I guess it doesn’t hurt to see how awesome other bloggers’ recipes have been so far – check ’em out by heading over to Twitter or Instagram and seeing what can be done with just 10 ingredients. As a recap, we were allowed to use Tabasco (obviously), chicken, eggs, mozzarella, zucchini, fennel, honey, ciabatta, rigatoni, and brown rice. So far, I’ve made fried mozzarella toast and spicy chicken pasta salad, and today I present to you this zucchini and fennel frittata with gooey mozzarella cheese. Another egg dish, another day. Kramer and I actually ended up saving this to eat for lunch at work over a few days, and it was great with a side of bacon! Brunch for lunch was always the best day of the week in elementary school, so why not carry that tradition over into your adult life? Fresh from the garden zucchini, paired with flavorful fennel and rich mozzarella? Yes please. Just pop that sucker in the microwave at lunch time and watch your co-workers salivate while they hunch over their frozen burritos. Bon app├ętit!

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