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Extra Dark Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

  I thought I'd found it.  I'd been to every advisor, run through every career test, and taken a wide variety of classes.  Walking down the stairwell of a library, I sent a group text to my family, trying to be happy with the announcement of my double major after so many undeclared semesters.

  Seconds after I reread the text, I stopped walking.  None of it felt genuine, none of it felt like me.  I saw books I didn't want to read, people I couldn't seem to fit in with or relate to, and so so much quiet stress bouncing around the numerous floors of the building.  Students in literal cells surrounded by books cramming their brains with something, all in an effort to make it in this world.

  I don't even know what making it means anymore.  A good job?  High-paying salary?  A resume?  A degree?

  But I shrugged it off.  You're crazy, Ellen!  Just overthinking all of it.  You love learning, this next year will be so great for you now that you've declared something.  You never try hard enough to get involved, just suck it up.

  Fast forward exactly 4 months.  A week into my classes I came out a crippled mess that was no semblance to any Ellen I've ever known myself to be.

  It's complicated.  But it's also not.  After 2 years of schooling and already taking one year off, I'm back where I started.  I have no idea what to do.

  I spent high school partially on the internet and with my nose in a cookbook.  If I wasn't doing that I was in the kitchen making treats for friends with my own catering business.
  If you've been reading this blog for any number of months/years, then you know I'm not kidding.  Making the hurdle into college basically shut down the regularity this blog/space had.  Anytime I was studying I would inevitably hop on here and browse through all my hard work and photographs and feel like I was mourning something.

  I don't like to think that I made a wrong decision somewhere, I don't really believe that at all.  I believe everything I've done up to this point has made me a stronger and more capable human, if sometimes a little bit embittered.

  All that said, I'm lost.  I don't feel the draw towards academia at all, but it gives me an eery feeling when literally everyone else my age is surrounded by midterms and textbooks and filled to the brim with complaints about it.  I feel like I'm cheating, or being lazy, especially since my grades were nearly always top notch.  But the fact is I don't know what I want with school at all, and I'd rather figure that out before I jump back in, if I jump back in.

  So in my drifting, I've been searching for some words.  For someone in a similar situation.  Whether that's a fictitious character in a novel, a blog post, a pinterest quote, a show on Netflix...I'm desperate for some affirmation.

  But, guess what, I'm never going to find that.  Affirmation about my own life decisions can only come from me.  So I'm biting the bullet and putting my whole messy quandary up here because I want somebody else also in an indecisive situation to also be able to see this and take comfort in the fact that they aren't the only ones struggling.  We all are.  I have yet to meet a person that really knows what they're doing or if they're doing it "right".

  Nope, I don't know a lot at this point.  But if there's one thing I do know it's that brown butter and dark brown sugar and an extra pinch of salt can make an absolutely fantastically deep and wonderful cookie.

  That was a lot of adjectives in what is definitely a run-on sentence, but describing these snickerdoodles to you absolutely requires breaking a few grammar rules.  Because honestly, at this point, I'm a little tired of regulations and societal expectations.

  So I just sit on my bedroom floor and eat half a dozen cookies and hope something brilliant comes to me pretty soon.  But if it doesn't, I'm willing to recreate these incredibly soft cookies as many times as necessary just so they can fill my tiny kitchen with their cinnamon-y comfort.

Extra Dark Brown Butter Snickerdoodles
Yield: about 2 dozen small cookies

  • 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place the butter in a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until you hear it starting to pop/sizzle.  Heat continually, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sizzling starts to subside.  Once it does, the butter will begin to brown, you then remove it from the heat and pour it into the bowl of your stand mixer or a large mixing bowl to cool down for a few minutes.

With an electric mixer, stand mixer, or just a whisk, mix in the sugars until smooth and well combined. Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla, and mix until smooth.  In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Gradually add them to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.

Combine the 3 tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon in a shallow dish. Scoop dough into equal 1 inch sized portions, roll into balls and coat in cinnamon sugar. Place dough balls an inch apart on cookie sheets.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until bottoms of the cookies are golden. Right after coming out of the oven, gently pat the tops of the cookies with a spatula to flatten and add some extra cracks.  Cool and then enjoy!

Sources: adapted from Baker Chick


Roasted Parmesan Acorn Squash with Golden Smashed Potatoes

  I saw a lot of my summer through rose-colored glasses.  

  But now, autumn is telling me that as beautiful as those rose-tinted moments were, everything was not as it seemed.  That's the thing about seeing the world through a tinted lens, it's short-term, and more often than not hides a fairly black and white reality.

  I hope someday that I can say I don't regret the decisions I had to make when those rose-tinted glasses were cruelly snatched from my face.  I spent a series of days/weeks holding the shards of what once was, and ultimately had to realize that it was never anything at all.  Friends fade, relationships dwindle, and future plans take a different turn.  And while those rosy moments shine on when we smell certain things and drink certain drinks, ultimately we know that they can never live again, and maybe they never really even did.

  And that is sad, and I'm sorry it is sad and that this post comes across as quite sad, too.  But this is autumn, and while I'm still stinging from the cuts of broken rosy glass, I can't help but find comfort in seasonal recipes while everything around me tucks away its greenery and embraces the bittersweet change that the north wind can bring. 

  Right now, taking care of myself means learning to wield a knife again.  It means buying myself good food and eating it.  It means that I am worth the effort of grocery shopping and a simple, but elegant meal.  And if that's as far as I get right now, then goddamnit I'm doing pretty good.  

  I thought I had nothing in the way of real people food during a particularly dreary afternoon/late morning.  Then I found the acorn squash I bought nearly 2 months ago, weeks before I waved goodbye to my very first apartment and embraced my old roommate.  I found onions and garlic and potatoes that I bought on a whim when the neighborhood grocery store opened.  The feel and look of a Yukon Gold is nothing short of magical to someone who likes potatoes as much as I do.  Then there was the container of shaved parmesan I purchased when I decided that a bit of flavor would do me good, and the half sticks of butter I got to make my ex's parents a cheesecake.

  Call me crazy, but every ingredient in here has some kind of story.  And somehow in combining all of them, it made a little temporary balm for a weary soul and hungry stomach.

  I know I've gotten pretty hoity-toity on this blog about cooking for scratch and making your own caramel and whatever, but the reality of it is that sometimes it's really damn hard to even get yourself out of bed, let alone fix yourself a meal that you know only you will eat.

  But that's why this is important.  These potatoes, this squash, you slicing up a couple of onions, it's important.

  Keep eating, cook your way through the seasons and the curveballs life continually tosses.  No matter how simple the meal is, it matters, because you matter.

  Apologies for the inadvertent depth this post ended up reaching, but I'm pretty deep in the feels these days and I've really missed this outlet.  I'm glad to come back to it, hopefully next time will include less morose wonderings and more chocolate <3

Roasted Acorn Squash with Golden Smashed Potatoes
Yield: Enough to feed you for a few days

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 2 small onions
  • 2 giant cloves of garlic, divided
  • olive oil
  • seasonings of your choice
  • parmesan
  • 4 Yukon gold potatoes
  • tablespoon of butter
  • a bit of sour cream or greek yogurt

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and line a rimmed sheet pan with tinfoil.

Prep your potatoes by washing them and cutting them into chunks, throw these chunks into a medium pot and cover with water and add a dash of salt.

With a large, sharp knife, cut your acorn squash in half so you can scoop out the innards/seeds with a big spoon.  Then proceed to cut your squash into pieces/chunks/slices, whatever you like.  (Word of advice, I did not cut the rind off of my squash pieces and while that's fine, it's definitely not edible and kind of annoying to slice off of each individual piece as I'm eating it, so maybe slice yours off.)
Peel and slice your onions into thin rings, then mince a clove of garlic.  Toss everything together on a sheet pan with a generous pouring of olive oil and seasonings of your choice (I used chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and some thyme).  Throw the sheet pan into the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, until tender.  In the last 10 minutes of baking, open the oven and sprinkle some parmesan on top to let it melt and meld with the squash.

While the squash is roasting, place your pot of potatoes on to boil.  Once the water is boiling maintain a steady boiling simmer and continue until your potatoes are tender (i.e. can be stabbed easily with a fork).  While the potatoes boil mince your other clove of garlic.  Once the potatoes are done, place in a bowl and immediately throw in your garlic, sour cream, salt/pepper, sour cream/yogurt, and even a dash of ranch if you're feeling fancy.  Oh, and parmesan, absolutely throw in some parmesan.  Amounts are up to you, you need only smash your potatoes to your desired consistency.

At this point the squash should be done and cooling, and you need only to greedily heap your plate with everything you just made.  Good job, you have a meal.

Sources: an Ellen original


Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango

  I'd forgotten how much I like the process of things.  Things meaning food, and the making thereof.  I feel like coming out of school I was a directionless, lifeless mess that needed a solid month of detox.  Finals and life happenings whooped me real good.

  This meant that my kitchen suffered a little bit.  I had just dropped a solid amount of money on a new computer, I was spending a couple of weeks working 2 jobs while I was working on putting in my two weeks as a barista, and then I spent a lot of time stressing out over how on earth I was going to make a living off of tips by shoving burgers at people's faces.  Also, do I know where or whom I'll be living with once my lease ends in August?  Nope.  Sure don't.

  I'm figuring it out.

  But all that crud aside, this is my mental health summer.  Even though I'm working 6 days a week my schedule is still fairly flexible, and Sundays are always my chill day.  And that's been hella nice.  Once my brain calmed down and I got back into a yoga routine, I started to relax a bit more.  I've been making time for friends and fam, but also learning to enjoy time by myself.

  And so I've gotten back into the process.  It started with a humble loaf of banana bread that I brought into work with me one night.  Servers and bartenders alike gobbled it up, and it made me remember how much I love making and sharing kitchen creations.  It also made me remember the summer I spent in Arizona, where I made a whole lot of creations but had very few people to share it with.  Backtracking to those days, sticky rice and mango came up.  I distinctly remember my aunt leaving the recipe out for me when she was at work, and being unemployed and bored, naturally I made it.

  If you recall, this dessert was not only delicious and perfect for a hot summer day, but it was also the icebreaker between me and and basically the only friend I made that summer, Francesco. Remembering all that was humbling, very humbling.  It also reawakened my creative spark.  Immediately I was off, hunting through Woodman's for the absolute perfect rice like a crazy lady.  And damn did it feel good to be back.

  So, by all means, wherever you are in your life this summer, make this rice.  Maybe take a heaping portion to your next door neighbor, even if he doesn't speak your language.  Maybe eat it for breakfast, cold and from the fridge, before you rush off to work.  I just can't tell you how therapeutic it is to wash rice, let the grains flow from your fingers, and then steam it.  This dessert is simple but it does take some time, so plan accordingly.

  I'm off to continue my summer meanderings, including but not limited to sunbathing, speaking broken Spanish thank you's to the kitchen staff and dishwasher for making tacos for the servers on slow Tuesday nights, nods of solidarity to fellow restaurant employees as we cross paths wheeling trash to the communal dumpsters, getting frustrated with bad tippers, wrestling with class schedules, creating fantastic inside jokes with new friends, etc.

  Take after this rice and soak up these lovely summer days while you can.

Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango
Yield: serves 6

  • 1 1/2 cups glutinous (sweet) rice*
  • 1 1/3 cups well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted lightly (or shredded coconut is also delicious for a topping)
  • 1 large mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into thin slices (at least 24)
*Rice should be quite opaque, meaning it's not as translucent as other grains.  That being said, don't stress about it too much, any good white, short-grain rice will do in a pinch. The brand I used was Three Horses Sweet Thai Rice.

In a medium bowl wash rice well in several changes of cold water until water is clear (Mine never got totally clear, but after about 8 washes there was a noticeable difference in the clarity.). Cover the rice in cold water and cover with plastic wrap, let soak overnight at room temperature.

Drain rice well in a fine mesh sieve (Alternatively, a colander and cheesecloth also works well.). Set sieve over a large deep saucepan of simmering water (sieve should not touch water) and steam rice, covered with a kitchen towel and a lid, 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender (check water level in pan occasionally, adding more water if necessary). 
While rice is cooking, in a small saucepan bring 1 cup coconut milk to a boil with 1/3 cup sugar and salt, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and remove from heat. Keep mixture warm.

Transfer cooked rice to a bowl and stir in coconut-milk mixture. Let rice stand, covered, 30 minutes, or until coconut-milk mixture is absorbed.  Rice may be prepared up to this point 2 hours ahead and kept covered at room temperature.

While rice is standing, in cleaned small pan slowly boil remaining 1/3 cup coconut milk with remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Transfer sauce to a small bowl and chill until cool and thickened slightly.

To serve, mold 1/4 cup servings of sticky rice on dessert plates. Drizzle desserts with sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds or coconut. Divide mango slices among plates.

Sources: Lightly adapted from epicurious.com