Category Archives: Recipes

Status report: 3 weeks of Family Dinner

So here we are, a few weeks in to our new system. Overall, I’d say I’m about 1000% less stressed by feeding Tuck than I was before. I’m much less concerned about buying special foods or worrying what he’ll eat if we go out, and I’ve enjoyed the new rhythm of our evenings, with Tuck’s bedtime meaning we’re done for the night, not just starting our own dinner, cleanup, etc. Ben makes it home most nights, though we’re still working on the timing and order of operations. Tonight I’m going to try bath first and dinner at 7ish, instead of dinner earlier and bath after.

First night of family dinner
First night of Family Dinner! Very focused.

The first meal I cooked was one of the most successful. I made simple chicken cutlets (pounded chicken breast, dunked in beaten egg, dredged in Italian-style bread crumbs, pan-fried) and served pasta with pesto and a salad. After refusing to touch any kind of meat, including chicken strips, for months, Tuck ate the chicken up and demolished the pasta.

Frittata, yum!

The most fun we’ve had has been with fruit, since he is obsessed with it and will eat as much as we’ll give him. We even played with chopsticks last week, inspired by a current favorite book, the adorable Spoon. (Little Spoon is jealous of his friends knife, fork and chopsticks until his mom points out that he gets to do fun things like dive into ice cream and stir hot cups of tea. So cute.)


Ok, so his technique isn’t 100%, but he got them to work!

I’m grateful that we’re heading into summer and berry season, since I don’t love buying a bunch of stuff trucked in from who-knows-where. Still, his joy over a bowl of blackberries is hard to deny!


We were traveling this weekend, for a wedding, and I was thrilled by how he ate. Breakfast was best, just because there were a lot of non-kid’s-menu options. (Other meals ended up involving a lot of chicken fingers and pasta.) One morning he ate pancakes, eggs, bacon, some of Ben’s cereal, several bowls of strawberries, and some pineapple! At home he’s now routinely eating his big bowl of yogurt and an english muffin or piece of toast with peanut butter.

I know there haven’t been any good photos or recipes lately–that’s up next! I’ve been relying heavily on my phone, and Instagram, but pictures I take of dinners end up being pretty unappealing. Here’s my peace offering: Since June is acting like March (and it was 90 degrees in March, so….who knows), I made a slow cooker stew for dinner last night. Tuck rejected it and ate a bit of bread for dinner, but Ben and I were deeeeelighted. I hate sweet potatoes but didn’t mind them here. If you’re the person who sent me this recipe, which I had pasted into a note page on my phone for the last 6 months, please speak up so I can give you credit!

Below is a direct quote from whoever sent me this. I did brown the beef, but thanks to a genius-time-saver-brainwave, I just browned the 2 big sides of the hunk of chuck instead of chopping it up before browning. Then I cut it into pieces, each with two browned sides, and added it to the slow cooker. The addition of tomatoes totally makes this. My usual Guinness stew uses only the beer and last batch it turned out bitter (burned flour, I think, actually). This had great flavor and was, of course, even better today. Super-quick prep, too.

“Also — in other news — easiest beef stew crockpot recipe ever:

1 can of Guinness
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, pressed (or less, if you don’t love garlic as much as I do)
2 bay leaves
1 pound (+) of stew beef (not too lean, or it’ll be tough) [Note from Kate: I used 1.5 lbs of chuck and I wouldn’t have wanted much less meat in the mix]

Sizes and amounts can change, depending on your tastes. Throw it all in the crockpot and cook it for 2 or 3 hours on high, or 5 or 6 on low. Technically, you’re supposed to brown the meat before you stew it, but I didn’t bother with this recipe, and it was delicious anyway.”

First real summer CSA pick-up this week! I signed up for a fruit share and they’re promising strawberries AND rhubarb; such riches. I plan to make this ridiculously appealing cake from Smitten Kitchen, but let’s be honest, I’m awfully lazy about baking. We’ll see.

Aarti’s Kheema

Among my guilty pleasures is “The Next Food Network Star,” which I have found to be a fairly interesting look at what makes someone a good TV host (not simply a good cook, like on Top Chef). I like the judges and find their discussions of the business of TV fascinating. And last season I loved one contestant from the very first episode on: Aarti Sequira, who went on to win the whole shebang with her combination of warm TV persona and delicious-looking Indian twists on familiar foods.

We watch her show, Aarti Party, regularly, and it’s the only cooking show aside from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home that has ever inspired me to actually look up the recipes online and try them. A few weeks ago Aarti made Kheema, a beef dish that she described as ultimate childhood comfort food. (She was raised Catholic, so beef isn’t an issue in her cooking; my friend Kabir is from a similar background and came over shortly after I’d made this; he apparently loved kheema as a kid and was more than willing to eat up the leftovers.)

This recipe is VERY easy. I’m enjoying my new forays into Indian cooking; the technique is very different from what I’m used to: recipes (from Aarti and elsewhere) tend to start with slowly browning onions and then combining them with spices to make almost a sticky paste to which you add liquids and additional ingredients.

Go here for the actual recipe.

Pretty spices at the ready (coriander, paprika, garam masala, cumin, cayenne):


Onions get going:


Lots of garlic and ginger–by far the slowest part of the recipe is prepping them; easily avoided by having Aarti’s ginger-garlic paste (“recipe” at the end here) on hand in the fridge–join the browned onions:


Cook in the spices:


Add a pound of ground beef:


Cook it through, then add water, salt and pepper, tomato (and peas):


Simmer briefly, add some cider vinegar for kick and cilantro if you’re more organized than I am (also I hate cilantro) and you’re done.


We ate it rapidly, with naan.


I know that doesn’t look like much but it really was a very comforting, warm dish. I need to make it again, this time with something green added at the end–maybe parsley in place of the cilantro?

By the way, I think I’ve nailed down another reason I haven’t been blogging. We got recessed lights put into our kitchen last spring, and while the light is now much, much better for cooking, it’s horrible for photos–shadows no matter where I go, harsh light that makes everything look greasy and gross. Blah. I wonder what the solution is for kitchen lighting that works for cooking AND for photos: So much everywhere that the shadows aren’t a problem?

Summer food: Variations on a theme

(No CSA this week; we were out of town and a neighbor picked up my share.)

As if pregnancy hadn’t already made me an incredibly lazy cook, summer really lowers my level of ambition in the kitchen. As I flipped through photos from the last couple months there were two things I kept falling back on, each of them easy to adapt to nearly any situation: Pasta salad and sliced steak over salad.

Pasta salad first. I never understood the stuff. It always seemed clammy and gluey and all-around blah. But then I started needing to take side dishes to picnics, or needing a side dish for a barbecue, and the revelations of Lydia’s pasta salad, and Bridge’s Greek version, and the BLT salad from Matchbox in DC all conspired to make me sort of obsessed.

Recent versions of each:

Lydia’s, modified for extra flavor:

(Tomatoes, red onion, mozzarella, basil, pasta. Everything except the cheese and pasta sat for a while in sherry vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper to get juicy. Cheese added once the pasta had cooled.)



(Tomatoes, red onion, bell peppers, feta, olives, summer squash, pasta. Again with dressing the vegetables first and adding the cheese last.)

BLT, again:


(Tomatoes, red onion, pasta, bacon, iceberg lettuce & creamy dressing of your choice (bacon/lettuce/dressing added just before serving))

Meat on salad:

Perfect for nights when it’s too hot to turn on the stove at all. Grill something and slice it on top of a salad that you’ve fancied up with whatever sounds good.

First up, skirt steak (marinated in ginger/soy/etc.) and served over butter lettuce and avocado with carrot-ginger dressing from Smitten Kitchen (I found the dressing bland and need to play around with it more. I might have used too much carrot?):



Next, gluten-free cooking for Ben’s mom, with a totally unsuccessful marinade that we will not legitimize with a link, but with very successful corn salad on top of the greens:



(I have made this version several times (adding avocado to the corn salad, sometimes), but not with that gritty gross marinade, EPICURIOUS.)

And in a variation on the theme, a taco version with ground beef that I cooked with homemade taco seasoning and served on lettuce with corn, avocado, tomatoes and a little cheese. Greek yogurt (instead of sour cream) and crumbled chips added to taste at the table.


Hmm, revisiting these has solved my dilemma about dinner tonight—I just need to decide which one sounds best. I think I want to give that carrot/ginger dressing another shot.

CSA Weeks 1 & 2: Back to the greens

Summer! Forget Memorial Day. Despite the calendar and no matter how freakishly cold or hot it is, the first CSA pick-up of the season marks the beginning of summer for me.

Last week in the first installment, I brought home a light and chlorophyll-packed bag of greens:

CSA Week 1

-Kale (I scored an extra from the new swap box)
-Napa cabbage
-Spring garlic (I think that’s what it’s called. It’s juicy and hasn’t hardened yet)
-Salad mix

I came home and took moody portraits of the garlic.

CSA Week 1

Then I chopped it up, removing the tough outer layers but not bothering to peel the cloves.

CSA Week 1

CSA Week 1

Obviously since I had a pile of kale that and the garlic were going to go together. Per usual. I do love kale.

CSA Week 1

CSA Week 1


This week remained green.

CSA Week 2

-Red leaf lettuce
-Rainbow chard
-White turnips (with greens)
-Garlic scapes
-Basil plant (Which reminds me, the poor thing is languishing on my sink waiting to be replanted. Drat.)

I figured I’d use up as much as I could in one meal, so I decided to cook the chard and turnip greens and serve them over pasta dressed with scape pesto.

I am always amazed by the grit that comes off nice field-fresh greens. Proof of local rain storms!

Greens and Scape pesto

I zoned out while making the pesto, and forgot to add in parmesan. I kept thinking, “this is bland and not quite like pesto,” but I didn’t clue in to the missing element until I was serving the pasta. Oops! Well, that kept it a bit lower fat, right? If you try this, add a good amount of grated parmesan. Anyway, I chopped the scapes just enough to throw them in the cuisinart, and added a bunch of walnuts and enough olive oil to make everything blend and get to the right texture. A bit of salt and pepper, and voila!

Greens and Scape pesto

Greens and Scape pesto

(Adding an extra handful of walnuts with the seasoning)

Greens and Scape pesto

For the greens, I cooked the chard stems for a minute or two, then added the chard, then the mustard greens, and a dash of chicken stock.

Greens and Scape pesto

Greens and Scape pesto

Bacon and feta on top gave much-needed creamy/salty/savory flavors. (I cooked the lardons first, and used the same pan/bacon grease for the greens.)

Greens and Scape pesto

Enjoy the hot weather! We have a busy week coming up, so I’ll probably check back in next Thursday. BTW, I’m now blogging at Fit Pregnancy’s website every Thursday, chronicling my preparations for the baby from a nursery/gear perspective. Check it out if you’re so inclined!

Travel inspiration: Pea salads for spring

Hi! We’re back. We got back a week ago, but you know how that always goes. If you want to take a look at where we were and what we were doing, from my perspective (which means with very few pictures of me!), check out this Flickr set.

One lucky thing about this pregnancy is that it hasn’t changed my vegetable obsession, it’s just made me a bit lazier about cooking things myself. Salads, especially those that don’t rely too heavily on lettuce, make me very, very happy these days, and we ran into a brilliant combination several times on the Scotland leg of the trip: Peas, edamame, some sort of greens and a bit of cheese.

The first (and best) encounter was in the charming town of Plockton, near the Isle of Skye, which despite a tiny population is blessed with a handful of very good restaurants. At the Plockton Inn (needs redecorating but the food was excellent), we ordered the pea/edamame/asparagus salad as a starter, and then I tried to eat as much of it as I could without Ben noticing. Sadly, I’d already divided it between two plates before realizing how great it was.

Pea/edamame salad

Super, super simple, but incredibly tasty. The sweet English peas and earthier edamame are a great pairing.

Later, in a random pub in Edinburgh, we ordered something similar, this time with rocket (arugula) as the green, no asparagus, and with the addition of chunks of feta. This photo is truly terrible, but it was very dark and the one light was coming straight over my shoulder, making big shadows!

Pub grub

When we got to France, I was still thinking about those salads, so on our first night in the house we’d rented I made my own version, using little fava beans instead of edamame.


Market spoils:


We just don’t have local produce like this here yet. It was luxurious.

Fava, pea, asparagus salad

Ben had never prepped fava beans before. He was taken aback by the layers of steps, but was an instant pro, especially at getting the pods open in one fell swoop. He cut the prep time by well more than half.

Fava, pea, asparagus salad

I popped a steamer basket in a pan of boiling water so I could use the same water to blanch the favas and the peas separately. Then I used it to steam the asparagus.

Fava, pea, asparagus salad

Fava, pea, asparagus salad

Such a tiny number of favas. I ALWAYS forget that you have to buy them by the kilo to have enough.

Fava, pea, asparagus salad

I mixed the blanched/cooled vegetables (I shocked everything in the coldest water I could get after cooking; I didn’t have any ice!) together with a mustard vinaigrette. That was a mistake; the mustard overwhelmed the little fava beans. But it was nice with the peas and asparagus.

Fava, pea, asparagus salad

Quiche for me, pizza for Ben, and bread, to go with the salad.

First night dinner

Last night I went for it again, this time using frozen shelled edamame from Trader Joe’s, and a handful of rather elderly-looking English peas from Whole Foods (via god knows where; LOCAL VEGETABLES, PLEASE ARRIVE).

Once again, I cooked the vegetables separately (the peas need 30 seconds, max, and the frozen edamame closer to 5 minutes), then shocked them in ice water to stop the cooking.

Pea and Edamame Salad

This time I just dressed them with lemon juice and good olive oil, salt and pepper (same for the salad greens, in a different bowl):

Pea and Edamame Salad

When Ben got home, I topped the greens with the peas/beans, to which I had added a bit of marinated feta from the WF antipasto bar.

Pea and Edamame Salad

And we ate on the porch—hurray!

Pea and Edamame Salad

With a handful of cherries for dessert:


I hope Ben doesn’t get sick of this anytime soon, because I’m planning on making a million versions of it this summer. Slightly mashed and spread on bruschetta! Served with buffalo mozzarella! On top of fish!

P.S. Vote for Renee‘s community garden grant proposal! Vote here.

Easy peanut noodles for lazy people

Noodle Quest got under my skin, and one night after deciding to try Smitten Kitchen’s adapted-from-GOOP ginger dressing, I thought I’d whip up some cold peanut noodles to round out the meal. My mom used to make something similar, and I’d eat as many as I could out of the bowl before getting my hand smacked away. This comes together in less than the time it takes to cook the pasta.

Since I still haven’t found the right chinese noodles (they’re square cut, not flat), I used regular spaghetti. Worked great.

I used a combination of my beloved local Teddie brand natural peanut butter (chunky), soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, chili/garlic sauce and sesame oil. (This is not the place for a sweetened peanut butter like Skippy. Too much sugar.)


I started by thinning the peanut butter with a little warm water, and whisking it until it stopped looking repulsive and smoothed back out. (Warning: These are not attractive photos. For real.)


Added in the other ingredients and whisked some more:



Added in my cooked spaghetti (I rinsed it to de-starchify) and mixed:



The noodles suck in the sauce as they sit. They started out all nice and glossy (see above), but soon got much drier (see final photo, below). That’s fine, but instead of being overdressed, as I’d feared, they were a little under-dressed. I also will make the sauce sharper next time, since all that pasta dulls it down. I tossed in a little extra soy sauce and vinegar after I’d already mixed everything together, and drizzled with sesame oil before serving.

As for the ginger dressing…. I need to keep trying. It was really bland, even after I added extra ginger. Maybe I needed more shallot? Some garlic? Perhaps my two small carrots were still more carrot than one large? I love the idea (I am obsessed with the carrot-ginger dressing you get on those tiny side salads when you order sushi), and now I have a huge tub of miso, so why not try again?





I am on vacation, so this post appeared today through the magic of pre-scheduling. Comment away and I’ll reply when I get home!

Rooftop grilling and Spontaneous Sabayon

Our friends Megan and Dave live in an unbelievable (if slightly crumbling) townhouse, and a couple Saturdays ago they suggested bagging on restaurant plans in favor of an impromptu dinner party to take advantage of a nice night on the deck.

A mere hour or two later, we showed up to find that they’d prepared a feast of fresh fish, salad, asparagus, potatoes… After staying on the roof until the sun set and we got too cold, we dug in downstairs.

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

(I am so in love with this table/dining area)

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

There was an incident with a cork that crumbled while we were trying to open it, eventually requiring two corkscrews, a knife and scissors to extract enough that the rest could be pushed down into the bottle. Producing a geyser effect. It started so prettily:

Dinner at Megan & Dave's


Dinner at Megan & Dave's
(Note Dave’s grilling headlamp in back of the wreckage.)

The wine was apparently delicious, though. So at least it was worth the mess!

Once we had recovered a bit (and eaten our way through most of the leftover mango salsa), it was dessert time. I’d brought over blackberries, whipping cream, and a Whole Foods angel food cake, since I didn’t have enough warning to make dessert at home. The berries macerated in sugar and lemon juice while we ate, but Dave took a look at the options and decided he’d whip up a nice sabayon sauce to top things off. Impressive, right? Here’s his mom’s recipe:

Cold Sabayon Sauce
From Dave’s mom

5 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
¾ cup sweet white wine (or add extra sugar to dry white wine)
1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to hold a soft shape

Combine egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl (metal is good) that fits over a pot of simmering water. Whisk yolks and sugar until combined. Add white wine. Set over simmering water and whisk constantly until mixture thickens and coats a spoon and is too hot to leave your finger in. Remove from heat, add lemon zest and vanilla. Allow to cool or, to cool quickly, set bowl in a bowl of ice water and whisk. When mixture is cool, fold in whipped cream. Cover and chill until serving time.

And the action shots:

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

How gorgeous is this double boiler?

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

And the heavenly, heavenly result:

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

I have to admit, I’d never made sabayon. It was so simple! And SO GOOD. A huge step up from plain old sweetened whipped cream, and a welcome addition to an only-mediocre cake. The berries were helped a lot by the maceration, and were great with the bit of tang in the sauce.

I am on vacation, so this post appeared today through the magic of pre-scheduling. Comment away and I’ll reply when I get home!

Noodle Quest 2010: Entry 1

I am so obsessed with noodles, you guys. I always have been; my known weak spots are generally fried dough (donuts, elephant ears, churros, etc.), assorted other fried foods (clam strips, sausage-stuffed olives, duck fat fries, etc.), flat breads, and noodles. Mmmm, carbs and fat. Also garlicky kale, thank god.

A couple weeks ago I met my cousin Sara for lunch at Blue Ginger, out in Wellesley, where chef Ming Tsai has recently added a Noodle Bar to the lunch menu. I ordered the yakisoba (“Ramen Noodles and Garlic-Ginger-Tamari Sauce, served with carrots, bell peppers, onions, cabbage and scallions”), subbing in pork for chicken, and received a heavenly (spicy) bowl of chewy noodles and ridiculously flavorful minced or ground pork. I ate all the noodles and as much pork as I could shovel up with my chopsticks, but I had plenty leftover to mix with a package of ramen at home for dinner that night. (I left out the “flavor”/MSG packet and let the sauce on the pork do the work.) When Ben returned home from the trip that was allowing me to eat noodles multiple times a day without anyone knowing (until now), I decided I’d try to recreate the dish at home.

And by recreate, I mean I made noodles with pork. Flavors and vegetable content ended up being totally different. Perhaps because it was only now that I looked up the menu online and saw tamari listed as a key ingredient in the sauce. This will be an ongoing quest, unless Chef Ming decides he wants to share his recipe. I did meet him briefly at the restaurant, where he was styling food for a photo shoot, but I failed to beg for the recipe. He was super nice, though.


I patched together a sauce with pretty much everything in the fridge, plus a crazily hot black bean/chili sauce I grabbed at Whole Foods. I kept adding splashes of this and that, so I have no proportions or measurements, but I used hoisin (fatal mistake), soy, rice wine vinegar, the black bean/chili stuff, sesame oil, and maybe some of the chili-garlic sauce I keep around. Eh.

I chopped up spring onions and napa cabbage, minced garlic and grated ginger.


Then I cooked about a pound of ground pork in the wok, with half of the garlic and ginger. At the end I poured in some of the sauce and cooked it off to coat the pork.


Set that aside, then stir-fried the onions with the rest of the garlic/ginger.



And then the cabbage.


Once the cabbage was wilting, I added in the rest of the sauce and got it simmering.


And then the unruly mass of the cooked noodles entered the scene.


OMG. I really need to get a source for the delicious square chinese noodles my mom always used. The ramen were SO hard to deal with, all curly and tangled together. I adjusted the flavoring with more soy at that point, because the hoisin had made everything too sweet.

The final result was tasty, but it didn’t hold a candle to the Blue Ginger dish. I will track down the right noodles and some tamari and give it another go when we’re back from Europe.


Does anyone have a noodle dish they swear by? I have a good-looking recipe from my mom to try out, but I welcome all suggestions.

Aunt Kay’s Sugar and Spice cookies

This is a special one, guys. Two years ago Ben and I went to visit my wonderful great-aunt Kay, my maternal grandmother’s sister. She was 91 or so, and I was there to talk genealogy and take on the role of family historian. We spent a few hours going through photos and family trees, and when we first arrived she dashed into the kitchen and emerged bearing an enormous tray with a complete tea service and a platter of fresh cookies. I’ve never seen Ben move so fast in his life; he was over there and carrying the tray in about a second and a half. But I’ll never forget the image of her, so tiny, coming out of the kitchen with that huge heavy tray as if she weren’t rapidly approaching the century mark.

She had baked the cookies that morning, and with one whiff I knew they were the same sugar & spice cookies I grew up eating. I had recently asked my mom for the recipe but she couldn’t find it, so I asked Aunt Kay to let me copy it down.

Me with Aunt Kay (one of the many Katherines to precede me in the family tree) at that last visit:
kate kay 08_08

Though she’d been in wonderful health, Aunt Kay died unexpectedly last year at 92, and her husband of 65+ years, George, died this winter. A month or so ago I got two big boxes in the mail from one of my mom’s sisters, with my name written on the side in pencil, in Aunt Kay’s writing. She had put aside all the miscellaneous family history stuff for me—piles of photos and a crazy assortment of documents, including the bill of sale from my great-grandfather’s purchase of his shoe store. Sorting everything out is one of my urgent to-do items before the baby arrives.

After all this time, I still hadn’t made the cookies. And for some reason I’d mentioned them to Ben, who, as we’ve established, is the baker in these parts, and while I was making dinner the other night he whipped up the batter.

Recipe first:

Sugar & Spice Cookies

My Mom says this was a recipe her mother made all the time. She emailed me: “One time a neighbor who raised eggs asked Mom for a recipe for customers and they used that one, so it’s kind of famous.” My aunt says it’s a Deerfield (Old Deerfield, MA, where they grew up) recipe, in general. Either way, it’s easy and delicious; you will not believe how good these smell.

3/4 cup shortening (we used butter)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine wet ingredients (cream the butter and sugar together, then add egg and molasses).


Combine the dry ingredients and then mix into the wet batter.


This is a very sticky, stiff dough.

Aunt Kay's Sugar & Spice cookies

According to Aunt Kay: “Drop by teaspoons on a cookie sheet. Flatten with a fork.” I took over from Ben at this point, and followed what I thought I remembered of my mom’s method, rolling the cookies into balls and dipping them in sugar before pressing down with the fork, or not.

Aunt Kay's Sugar & Spice cookies

Aunt Kay's Sugar & Spice cookies

Aunt Kay's Sugar & Spice cookies

Basically, I knew my mom’s didn’t have fork ridges. Once I asked her about it, I learned that she pressed them down with a buttered, sugared glass. Ah-ha! Ridges are for peanut butter cookies in my family. I tried a few ways, and used both granulated and sparkling sugar to see which was better.

Aunt Kay's Sugar & Spice cookies

Bake 10-12 minutes. DO NOT OVERCOOK, says Aunt Kay. The cookies are very soft when they first come out, but they firm up, and you want crisp edges and chewy insides.

Granulated sugar, pressed down with fork:

Aunt Kay's Sugar & Spice cookies

Sparkling sugar, no pressing down:

Aunt Kay's Sugar & Spice cookies

Side by side:

Aunt Kay's Sugar & Spice cookies

I preferred the pressed-down ones; the thicker ones got a little overcooked on the edges before the middles set. Ben likes those better, though! So compatible.

One more photo, for the road. This is my grandparents’ wartime wedding. My mom’s parents, Tom (who I never met) and Meg, are on the left. Aunt Kay is second from the right, with my grandfather’s brother.

tom meg wedding

In the boxes I got in the mail were two letters written by my grandmother to Aunt Kay right before she got married. My grandfather wrote snotty comments in the margin in pencil. They’re a hoot; I need to transcribe (and scan) them some day.

Late dinner tonight. Time for a cookie or two…

Pasta, fully loaded

Last month, while on our annual visit to dear friends down in Sarasota, we enjoyed a massive and fabulous meal at a Tapas restaurant in town. (I also got to be the designated driver for the first time, thanks to the restaurant’s slight delay in seating us and the decision of the non-pregnant members of our party to work through the several bars in the building en route to our table.)

Everyone else was in a meat mood, but the highlight of the evening for me was a sauteed spinach dish with dried figs, honey and onions. The onions seemed scorched, or something, which gave them a delicious smokiness to offset the sweet figs and honey. I had trouble releasing the dish to be shared.

Once we were home, I started thinking about scorched onions and other ways to use them, and I settled on a kale/sausage/onion pasta dish. I was going to cook the pasta absorption style, but then I remembered Smitten Kitchen’s post about spaghetti with cheese and pepper, and figured I could use that as my base.



I started by cooking the sausage (out of the casings) until it was nearly done. I wiped most of the grease from the pan (but not all of it, for which I paid), and started the onions. My mom and I had discussed it and thought a dry pan was probably the best bet if I wanted a scorch on the onions before covering them and letting them cook through with the steam from the liquid they would release.


Yeah, the deliciousness left over from the sausage was not a “dry pan.” That all started to really burn on, pretty quickly. In fact, the pan turned completely black. Also a Swiffer Wet-Jet is not ideal for turning off a smoke alarm, FYI. Awkward handle shape.


And yet the onions didn’t really get the smoky flavor I was looking for. On further reflection the next day, Mom and I agreed that the restaurant was almost certainly using a flat-top to cook the onions. Maybe I’ll try a griddle next time? And NO OIL?

Remaining ingredients:


I had to wash the pan after the onions were done; it actually scraped clean pretty easily since I added boiling pasta water (pre-pasta) to it while it was hot, and then scraped off the blackened stuff. Tip: Never let a badly burnt-on pan cool before filling it with HOT water to soak. Scrape while it’s all still hot and you will save yourself endless scrubbing.

After a cursory wipe-down, I cooked the kale quickly. Meanwhile the pasta was cooked.

As per the recipe, I heated oil in the pasta pot, added back the pasta, and added in some of the pasta water. In went the cheese, pepper and butter:



Not really coated enough. Less pasta water next time. More cheese.

In went the kale, sausage and onions.


Funny how thinly stretched a mountain of onions and kale can seem once you add them to a pound of pasta. I could definitely have used at least one more sausage, though I was using hot ones from the freezer and it would have been too spicy for our wimpy palates with more.


Great flavor combination (obviously; it’s one I use all the time…branch out, Kate!). I left the kale a little less cooked than usual so it had great chew against the pasta. The onions were more caramelized-tasting than I wanted, but overall it was delicious.

I really need to work out the key to those onions, though. I want that spinach dish.