I made molasses/gingerbread cookies last year and decorated them and then about two days later had a baby. They are still the prettiest cookies I have ever made and holy jesus I am glad I am not that pregnant right now
And it turns out that I’m not the biggest fan of gingerbread/molasses cookies. I thought this was a universal thing. Then two nights ago Dave and I were sitting around having Po’ Boys and Pickles takeout and I was enjoying my giant fried macaroon and noticed Dave was eating a molasses cookie.
And I was suddenly like, you ordered that cookie? And he said yes. And I said, instead of a giant fried macaroon?
Instead of a chocolate chip cookie?
You like molasses cookies?
Like, better than a chocolate chip cookie? So if you were given the option of a chocolate chip cookie and a molasses cookies, you would choose to eat the molasses cookies?
WE HAVE BEEN TOGETHER FOR MORE THAN 10 YEARS. Who IS this person? I have a child with him!
So for those of you who really enjoy a molasses cookie, here’s a recipe:
This has been sitting in my drafts folder for ages, but look! I made the gingerbread cookies and iced them and they looked so pretty! It was the first time I iced/decorated cookies and I’m really pleased.
Now, I do understand that for most of you, the season of cookies decorated to look like snow-frosted trees and reindeer has passed. HOWEVER, the season to decorate cookies to look like hearts and other symbols of affection is just around the corner (bonus! choose your own symbols of affection! I think last year I made hippos!). What I’m saying is that this post is so out-of-date it has almost become timely again.
I’m including the cookie recipe from my friend Anna below, with my comments in italics. A few notes:
- I used less molasses than the recipe called for, but the cookies were still super molasses-y (to the extent that you might call them molasses cookies). If you dislike molasses cookies, you might want to look elsewhere for your decorated-cookie needs.
- The dough also seemed really wet to me, but it was fine, they still rolled out okay.
Anna’s Gingerbread Cookies
"I remember it making a massive batch, so you could probably halve the recipe depending on how deeply you want to be buried in gingerbread (recipe says 4 dozen).” I did not at first think that 4 dozen was a terribly huge number of gingerbread cookies, but it is. Proceed with caution. Also, you could probably make the full batch and then freeze half the dough.
- 2 sticks butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 cup dark molasses (I used 1 1/2 cups)
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 5 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/3 teaspoons cinnamon (WTF with the 1/3 of a teaspoon? I did not spend a lot of time trying to get that measurement precise. Edited: I have since been told that this was supposed to be 1 and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon)
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Cream softened butter - add sugars, then egg & molasses, then vinegar.
2. Mix dry ingredients together, then add to butter mixture. Divide the dough into quarters and form into a flattened ball. Wrap the flattened ball in wax paper (I used plastic wrap) and chill at least 3 hours.
3. Roll the dough out to about ~1/4” thick (with plenty of flour on the counter and on the dough, and carefully turning the dough as you roll to keep it from sticking). Cut into desired shapes, re-rolling scraps.
4. Butter cookie sheets or cover with parchment (I used silpat) bake 6-8 minutes at 375˚. Don’t brown, these are better soft.
And then for icing:
Royal Icing Sans Raw Egg Whites
The classic royal icing involves raw egg whites, and if I hadn’t been pregnant, that’s what I would have made. Instead, I used a Martha Stewart adaptation that calls for egg white powder, which was surprisingly easy to find in the baking section at Whole Foods.
The lemon flavor in the icing is really nice with the cookies, but it fades quickly, so don’t get your heart set on it.
- 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 4 teaspoons powdered egg whites
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
In a large bowl, whisk together ingredients (I used a handheld electric mixer) until the mixture is thick and opaque.
Spoon the icing into a pastry bag or a resealable (Ziploc) plastic bag and snip a small hole in the corner. Squeeze icing onto cookies, add sanding sugar or other appropriately festive sprinkles if desired (word of caution: my use of sanding sugar made some of the reindeer look weirdly hairy).
I read a bunch of those uber-mom blogs. I’m sure you’ve come across them: they are the ones with the adorable small craft projects and staff bloggers and lots of kids in sweet and expensive outfits handsewn by two mothers in Denmark and recipes accompanied by beautiful photographs with incredibly narrow depths of field and linen napkins and sponsorships by pinhole press and gushing reviews of Honest Diapers.* I enjoy them, but around Christmastime it can get to be too much.
Their blog is their job, and my tumblr is not my job, and between my actual job, and my kid, and my husband, and my dog who needs to be walked, and my very important sitting quietly on the couch time, 90% of those lovely Christmas projects and decorations are just not in the cards. Which is not to say I don’t scroll through and marvel at the little felted polar bear Christmas ornaments.
We bought a tree this weekend, and it’s up, with a tree skirt cobbled together from two old towels (it was raining when we got the tree and I’m now in my third year of halfway believing that I will actually sew a tree skirt) and no lights or ornaments. I bought a nice boxwood wreath at Trader Joe’s, along with six boxes of lebkuchen. I’ve been eating a lot of clementines.
And then I was driving to Bear’s daycare and noticed that a run-down ice cream shop on the way is now selling Christmas trees. It was in the hour or so after the sun sets when the sky is deep blue and the lights were strung up and the trees looked quiet and peaceful and unpretentious.
I tried to take a picture with my phone while I was waiting at a red light, in between the cars whizzing by in the oncoming lane. It was all blurry, and I tried again the next day.
It turns out I don’t need eight varieties of attractively decorated and sprinkled Christmas cookies in nice tins decorated with washi tape and little pine tree sprigs and a homemade tree skirt to feel festive. I just need the weird and blurry photo I took on the way to picking up Bear from daycare. We find the Christmas spirit where we find it.
* There are other eco-friendly diapers out there! Truly! Much cheaper! European even! I have tried them all and can tell you about them.
Two of our siblings are in the San Francisco-ish area this year, so for Thanksgiving we headed west. We saw our siblings, and our parents, and Bear’s cousins, and redwoods, and Cal Academy, and the Pacific ocean, and endless sunshine, and I ate all the persimmons I could stuff in my face.
There was a moment when Bear was playing with two of his cousins and he started yelling. He was just overcome with delight. I hadn’t felt like I was cracked apart, but being there with our families made me feel like someone glued me back together.
Which is just to say that I love Maine, and I love our life, and it feels full and happy, but I miss our siblings so much.
Leftover lunch: Chorizo, sweet potato, chickpea, and corn soup.
This soup is one of my crowning achievements, cooking-wise. It’s thick: more like a stew than a soup, and a good mix of spicy and sweet, and really satisfying. It takes a little bit of advance planning but not much real hands-on work.
Spicy Vegetable Soup
- Dried chickpeas (I think I used maybe 2/3 lb?), soaked overnight and rinsed
- Olive oil
- 4 medium-sized chorizo sausages (I used a package of pre-cooked Niman Ranch chorizo sausages), cut up into 1/2” slices.
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cups chicken stock (probably optional, or you could use more)
- A small handful of medium-small carrots, cut up into 1/3 - 1/2” rounds. These are sort of optional, I added them because I didn’t have enough sweet potato. They’re good.
- 1 large sweet potato, cut up into 1/2” chunks
- 1/2 package or so frozen corn. You can let it thaw a bit on the counter while you’re cooking everything else.
(Soak the chickpeas overnight, or bring them to a boil, let them boil for a minute, then turn off the heat and let them sit, covered, for at least an hour.*)
Heat the olive oil in a large pot, then add the sausages. Saute for a few minutes. Remove the sausages and add the onion. Cook until translucent.
Add the chickpeas and enough water and chicken stock to easily cover. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to a simmer. Cook until the chickpeas are mostly done, which I think was around an hour for me? Maybe less? I didn’t keep track.
Add the carrots and bring the soup back up to a boil/simmer. Wait maybe 5 or 10 minute and then add the sweet potato. Add more water if you need it. Cook for maybe 15 minutes? Maybe more? Again, I didn’t really keep track. But once the vegetables are mostly done, add the corn. Bring everything back up to a boil, cook for a few minutes more, season with salt and papper and serve.
Like almost all soups, it’s better the next day (for lunch, at your desk, while you wade through a morass of budgets).
* If you have canned chickpeas instead of dried, I think you’d add the chickpeas with the sweet potatoes. So you’d add the carrots to the onions, saute for a minute, then add the chickpeas, sweet potatoes, and liquid. Correct me if I’m wrong on this, readers.
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!
My pumpkin pie is in the oven. I did get the mixer working but did not use the “burst of power.” I did not pre-bake because we’re in a weirdly-stocked rental. The lard I used was also a little meaty, so it’s a slightly meaty pie crust. It’ll be fine.
Overheard : “I’m thankful that no one at my Thanksgiving is gluten-free.”
Anyone can make dinner occasionally.* You plan out your meal, look up recipes, go to the grocery store to get all the ingredients, prep your ingredients early when you have energy and aren’t starving, and have a lovely meal to eat. Yes, there are skills you need to learn and resources you need to have, but making dinner once or twice or a few times isn’t a slog.
Making dinner every night is a whole different ball game. Getting home late from work, and getting the kid in the bath, and getting the dog walked, and having not gone grocery shopping recently, and realizing you’re missing key ingredients for your first three dinner ideas, and just not feeling like making an effort, and then making dinner happen anyway? That’s the grown-up shit.
That’s the shit that requires being flexible and creative and having back-up plans and just sheer grit.
I want you to remember this next time you see someone’s Instagram photo of the dinner they had with roast pork with apricots and braised greens and a side of parmesan polenta and you’re feeling bad about your scrambled eggs and a salad.
Which gets me to the frittata. My real serious scraping the bottom of the barrel dinner has always been scrambled eggs. But a frittata isn’t much harder, and is also very flexible, and feels like a real, satisfying dinner in a way that scrambled eggs kind of doesn’t.
Here’s a video of Ina Garten making a frittata that’s just delightful.
There are tons of frittata recipes that vary a fair amount. I ended up with a variation of a Mark Bittman recipe, but what I took away from the whole thing was that there are different ways to do this and they’re all basically successful.
- 8-ish eggs. Or a dozen. Or six. A bunch.
- Splash of milk (or not!)
- A bunch of quickly braised and chopped swiss chard, an onion chopped and sauteed until translucent, a handful of grated gruyere
- or 4-oz package of smoked salmon chopped, a chopped and lightly sauteed leek, chevre, a few tablespoons of chopped dill
- or whatever else sounds good to you
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.
Cook your fillings as appropriate in an oven-safe skillet in some butter. If you want to be lazy, you can just leave them in the skillet.
Whisk together the eggs and some milk. Add the fillings (or leave them in the skillet) and stir together.
Turn the heat to medium/low. Add some butter if need be, then add the egg mixture. Cook until the edges are mostly solid but the top is still runny.
Stick the skillet in the oven to finish cooking, around 15 minutes. (This is where they say to broil the thing to get the top browned but if I had time for that shit I wouldn’t be eating eggs for dinner, so.)
* Right, so that’s a huge simplification and based on a lot of assumptions and some privilege.
Hubbard squash near Berlin, Connecticut by Lee Russell, 1939. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
We have so much to talk about! I’ve been cooking a bunch lately!
But first: how many of you knew about stuffed squash and didn’t tell me?
This is not a thing you keep from someone! Stuffed squash! It will solve all your dinner problems.
My parents divorced when I was very little. My mum is a wonderful cook. My dad is not a good cook. He used to make stuffed peppers. I was legitimately a very, very picky eater, so I was not inclined to like stuffed peppers, but I also believe that the stuffed peppers were objectively not good. So not good that it’s taken me until adulthood to be able to trust stuffed vegetables. I am over thirty!
So I ended up at the Portland Farmer’s Market* a few weeks ago with a friend and admired some interesting squashes** and I asked what she would do with them and she was all, oh, stuffed squash. Like that was just a regular thing that people did.
I have eaten stuffed squash many times since then and it has legitimately changed my life. You want to know what to do with leftover rice? Leftover chicken? That half of a sausage you didn’t finish at dinner? The hearty greens that maybe have a day or two of good left in them? Half-mushy white beans? PUT THAT SHIT IN A SQUASH AND BAKE IT.
First, cook the squash. Cut your squash in half, scoop out the insides, rub each squash half all over with olive oil, place the halves cut side down on a baking sheet and cook at 425 until they’re tender. Maybe 30 - 50 minutes depending on the size and type of squash.
While the squash is roasting, get together your fillings and cook them/combine them. If needed, chop up the fillings (I like any meats to be cut up into 1/2” or so pieces so the effect is of a stuffing and not of hunks of meat inside an edible bowl). Variations I have tried:
- Leftover farro, cooked onion, apples, chopped walnuts, cranberries.
- Cooked swiss chard, onions, brown rice, and gruyere.
- Leftover sausage, apples, onions, brown rice, cheese.
- Leftover chicken, apples, rice, shallots, cranberries, nuts.
- (We have a lot of apples)
Many of these would have been slightly improved with the addition of a little bit of chicken stock to keep everything moist. Also, make sure to salt the filling.
When the squash is done, flip over the squash hemispheres and mash in the filling. Top with some grated cheese. Bake for another 20 minutes or so.
I also want you to know that you can eat the skins of many squashes. Try it!
* All you guys who told me the key to the Portland Farmer’s Market was going when it first opened? You were totally right. Now that I’m up and about when it opens at 7 am on weekends I go that early and it’s nice.
** You are interested in the best squash? It is the kabocha squash. Now you no longer have to wonder.
…is filled almost entirely with stock and ice cream. As it should be.