Category Archives: Dining In

in which I learn that flour makes a difference in baking

I know baking allegedly requires precise measurements and attention to detail, but I have such a hard time believing those rules apply to drop cookies.  I mean, come on.  Combine, drop, and bake.  What could be so hard about that? (Other than the clean-up of course.)

I planned to make these (favorite) cookies this weekend for the boyfriend, who is under the weather.  But when I started mixing things together, I realized I didn’t exactly have all the ingredients.

The ingredients – actual, and what I had on hand:

  • 2 c. flour 1 c. whole wheat flour, 1/2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 c. rolled oats 1 1/2 c. oats to make up for lack of flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. nutmeg
  • 1 2/3 c. sugar
  • 2/3 c. canola oil 1/3 c. cinnamon applesauce, 1/3 c. oil1
  • 2 T. molasses 1 Tbsp. maple syrup, 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 c. canned pumpkin, or cooked pureed pumpkin
  • 1 t. vanilla whoops, forgot to add vanilla
  • 1 c. walnuts, finely chopped, 1/2 c. raisins chocolate chunks FTW!

Did you know what happens to cookies that don’t have enough flour? Nothing good, that’s what. They puddle out and don’t really get crispy.

What’s the solution?  Eat those suckers as fast as possible, of course!

1 The applesauce substitution wasn’t born of necessity – I usually swap half of the oil out for applesauce, but I usually don’t have only cinnamon applesauce on hand.



I helped my mom with the sweet potato casserole yesterday (it was the most fun of the Thanksgiving projects: it involved smashing sweet potatoes and chopping up nuts with a new knife!), and it ended up quite a lovely casserole, if I do say so myself.  It also ended up a casserole with (despite us revising the recipe) almost unconscionable amounts of butter and sugar.

You kind of know that going into Thanksgiving, though.  I don’t think I had a green vegetable yesterday that wasn’t part of a casserole.  And there was pie!

Accordingly, this morning I woke in desperate need of a green smoothie.

I headed off to the grocery store for supplies, hoping I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew since I was sporting a greasy top-knot and wearing my pajama shirt with jeans.  I grabbed some spinach, almond milk, almond butter, and bananas (and some chocolate bunnies because I am powerless to resist chocolate bunnies), and I was in business.

Isn’t it lovely?  Mom has a much nicer blender here than I have at home.  I feel 95% better already.  Now if I could only get some coffee around here …

dyed eggs and Easter dinner

I love dying Easter eggs. We made a late night trip to Pathmark on Saturday night to procure our egg-dyeing-kit, and we dyed our eggs late last night. We used the same brand of kit, but our eggs didn’t turn out nearly as bright as they did last year! (That bright orange one is an exception, and that one rested in the dye for about ten minutes while we took a cake break.)

We dyed our eggs after we had our Easter dinner. We’re not typically much for “meat and potatoes” meals around here, but, it being Easter, we wanted a more traditional holiday meal. We picked up some lamb and braised it with caramelized onions and red wine (in a only slightly modified version of a Bon Appetit recipe), and it turned out so good. I didn’t even know that I liked lamb. We were pretty impressed with ourselves. We also roasted some tiny little potatoes with quartered baby artichokes.

And … as alluded to earlier, we baked a cake! We made lemon pudding cake, and, although it was more than a little messy since we don’t have a stand mixer, it turned out so incredibly well. The top gets cakey and the bottom part gets puddingy, and the whole thing tastes like a lighter, fluffier topping from a lemon bar. I’m surprised that we were able to make something that delicious.

I hope everyone else had a good Easter weekend. We had a lovely day yesterday (aside from a brief late afternoon shower and the evening thunderstorm), but today it’s bleak and foggy again. At least it’s starting to feel like spring!

Update: Marc has examined the photographic evidence and determined that we did not use the same brand of Easter egg dye. This year we used Paas; last year it looks like we used Dudley. We’ll have to remember next year that Dudley is the way to go!

new (to us) restaurants

Last weekend, we tried out a bunch of new (to us) restaurants. (Those will have to tide us over since, after our new produce delivery, we have so many veggies in our fridge that we are never eating out again, ha!)

☆ On Thursday, we had dinner at Bacchus Bistrot, a French place near where we live. Bacchus was one of the restaurants participating in Dine In Brooklyn, so it had a three course prix fixe for $25. Our dinner almost didn’t happen … I had made reservations using Open Table, and I accidentally made them for a restaurant called Bacchus in Buffalo, New York! Once I realized it, I was able to remedy the situation. I was glad it worked out: everything was really good, from the wine to the fresh bread to all our food to the sinful chocolate cake.

See my Yelp review of Bacchus Bistrot.

☆ On Saturday, we had dinner with some friends at an Italian place in the East Village called Paprika. In general, I’m not a fan of Italian food (I know, I just returned from Italy!), but I really enjoyed our meal. In particular, I liked my salad: a Bibb lettuce salad with anchovies and a garlicky dressing. It was so good.

See my Yelp review of Paprika.

☆ On Sunday, we met some friends for brunch at The Smile. It’s an unassuming place located below street level on Bond, and we probably would never have seen it if it hadn’t been recommended. Our brunch was delicious! Most of our table had the baked eggs on special, but I had a fig jam and cheese sandwich with arugula, yum.

See my Yelp review of The Smile.

pancake success!

Do you remember those runny blue pancakes I made earlier this year? After that unappetizing mess, I’ve made it my business to learn how to cook a pancake. I think I may have gotten the hang of it! Behold, this morning’s pancakes:

They weren’t perfect, but I was pretty proud of them! In addition to them being much more attractive (and tasty!) than the blue pancakes, they were much, much healthier. (The recipe is after the jump.)

I’m so proud of myself!
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the end of January

January is probably my least favorite month. I find it really hard to motivate myself to do anything (even blog!), when it’s so cold and bleak outside.

Winter Feed I don’t think I’d mind winter so much if there were sheep.
image credit: jamarmstrong on Flickr

Thankfully, we have waved goodbye to January for now! (Only forty-eight more days until spring …) Despite the unending gloom, I managed to do some fun things that last weekend of January:

☆ On Thursday, we went to the Cobble Hill Cinema to take advantage of their $7-movie night. We saw True Grit, about which, I have to admit, I was completely uninformed: I wasn’t sure what the movie was about, and I didn’t know that it was a remake of a John Wayne classic. Neither of those things affected my enjoyment, however, and I really liked the movie!

☆ On Friday, I was on my own, so I decided to take advantage of it. I ordered in Thai food, drank wine, and watched The Vampire Diaries. If you don’t think that sounds like fun, you obviously haven’t been watching the show! Here’s some reading for you: Ten Reasons You Should Be Watching The Vampire Diaries [The AV Club].

☆ On Saturday, I met some other Alpha Gams for a wine and cheese night. It’s always fun to meet new people – and especially fun to discover that you have the same couch, same random box of matches from a bar in Chicago, and same appreciation for Ethan Embry in Empire Records.

☆ On Sunday, we had dim sum at 9 Chatham Square. We arrived at 1:30 and found the place almost completely empty. We figured that we had missed the dim sum rush. Fifteen minutes later, the place was packed. It’s much more fun when it’s bustling!

☆ On Monday, we finally cashed in our Groupon for Madiba. I bought the Groupon way back in July, and I gave the place a five-star review on Yelp last April. The food was just as good as I remembered (he had the ribs, I had the prawns, and we split the malva pudding dessert), but I think the atmosphere is what makes Madiba really fun. They had a live DJ last night, and the place was lively without being too much of a scene. It was a nice place to have a late dinner on a snowy Monday night.

Anyway, Happy February!

in which I cannot make pancakes

I am not the best cook – you won’t see me on Top Chef any time soon, that’s for sure – but I can typically follow a recipe and produce something fairly decent, if not visually appealing. However, this general rule doesn’t seem to apply to breakfast items. I have a dismal track record where French toast and pancakes are concerned.

I used to blame my impatience on my failed breakfast items. I get antsy waiting over the stove for these things to cook slowly, so that they can cook all the way through without burning on the outside. I tend to flatten the item in question with my spatula, pressing it down into the pan and hoping that this would hurry up the process. Things did cook more quickly, but they also became dense and, well, ugly.

I have managed to rein in that impulse, and, although it’s taken five years, I’ve reached a truce with French toast. I think I can cook that as well as I’m ever going to be able to. Pancakes seem like they would be easy enough: mix the ingredients in a bowl and employ the same cooking method as the French toast. How, then, do I explain this?

unfortunately blue pancakes

I followed the recipe with only two slight variations. The first variation, substituting frozen (and thawed) blueberries for fresh, is to blamed for the color of the pancakes. The second variation, adding two tablespoons of melted butter instead of three (because I value my arteries, even when cooking indulgent pancakes for brunch), should not have caused my pancakes to be the consistency of melted ice cream. If anything, there would be less reason for my pancakes to be runny, greasy messes.

I added more flour (a lot more flour!) to the batter until the pancakes were finally able to hold their shape in the pan, but, honestly, they still weren’t very impressive. Accordingly, my new goal is to learn to make better breakfast food! I am going to learn how to make better pancakes (blueberry and otherwise), French toast, muffins, and the like if it takes all year.