Thursday, June 23, 2016

Buttery Snickerdoodles

Way in the way back of middle school, we had Home Ec where we had an entire unit devoted to microwave cooking. We also learned how to sew pillows in the shape of letters and pajama pants. Fortunately, we also had a unit on basic cooking like apple pie, pasta sauce, pretzel twists (with premade dough...) and snickerdoodles.

The snickerdoodles were such a success, that my friend and I decided to make them at home too. With our recipe sheet in hand, we divided the wet and dry ingredients and got to work. We immediately ran into trouble when we realized the butter was too hard to cream with the eggs. So we tried to microwave it to melt it but we had already added the eggs so the eggs got a little cooked. And yet, we persevered!

Even when the dough looked all wrong, even when we baked them and nothing happened, even when we waited 20 minutes and the dough hadn't risen or spread or moved at all, we still thought it was a good idea to try them. They were awful. Little clumps of somewhat raw dough with cooked eggs and just awful. After carefully retracing our steps, we realized that while I thought we were dividing the ingredient responsibilities by wet and dry, she was looking at it by column and lost in the confusion was a key ingredient: sugar.

Some things you can get away with forgetting: a pinch of salt, a dash of vanilla extract (purists, look away!) but sugar? No, you cannot make snickerdoodles without sugar.

So we tried again and were extremely successful. In an effort to establish myself as office baker in a new office, I volunteered to make cookies for an office function. Are snickerdoodles strictly American? I'm not sure but they are a quick and easy drop cookie (if 7th graders can make them, 27 year-olds definitely can).

Now, the issue I've run into is my recipes are all in cups which is great because I brought my measuring cups with me. But butter is sold in grams. So 1/2 cup of butter is 1 stick in the US but just about half a block in the UK (sold in 250g blocks, that's 1 cup). Not always a precise science. Also, it took me so long to find cream of tartar but when I did, I was happy to find it in small packets of teaspoon measurements. So easy!

To solidify my role as office baker in London, I made the Pioneer Woman's snickerdoodles for an office gathering. For good measure, I also made Joy the Baker's double chocolate cookies. This was a case of Goldie Locks and the butter. The double chocolate cookies had too little butter so were a bit crunchy. The snickerdoodles had too much butter and rather than being soft and pillowy, spread thin and were crispy. Still delicious and all gone by the end of the party but not quite up to my standards.

The simple answer would be to use recipes in metric but then won't I have to convert my teaspoons too? The plight is real and apparently I'm not the only one who has felt it. This article explained the differences in grams and teaspoons, various measuring techniques and all the struggles. I guess the moral of the story is, it probably won't ever be perfect--much like life--so you just gotta keep stirring.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Chicken, Avocado & Quinoa Salad

You know when you move to a new place and you feel like you're on vacation or staying in a hotel? And then eventually it becomes normal and it hits you, "oh, I live here. I'm not visiting". I think I've hit that point with London. Everything still feels super new and exciting but I'm starting to feel less like I'm on vacation and more like I need to start establishing a routine.

I've done mini meal prep but now that I'm settled in my permanent flat, I'm anxious to get back to cooking real food. There's been a lot of indulging the past couple of weeks with all the new places to explore and time to fill. I need a reset.

This salad was inspired by one offered by a local burger chain here in London, Byron. In general, portions are smaller than in America which is okay by me. I split this salad, a burger and a milkshake with a friend when we caught up over dinner. We wanted to get the full experience and make our burger judgments with all the accouterments but half the guilt. So it balanced out.

The salad served by Byron has chicken as optional but we ordered it plain since we were having a burger too. But for my lunch, I want to make sure to have some protein in there. Chicken, avocado, edamame, quinoa and tomatoes are tossed together with leafy greens. However, I couldn't find quinoa at the grocery store so used rice instead. And then I had to strain the rice because measurements are different here and I used too much water. The struggle is real.

This definitely would have been doable as mini meal prep but I got lazy. And hangry. So now we're going back to basics: lots of leafy greens, protein and veggies. Bring on the reset!

  • 1 lb. chicken breast, diced (or pre-chopped)
  • 1 cup rice or quinoa, cooked
  • 1 cup edamame
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Spinach or kale leaves
  • 1 avocado, pitted and diced
  1. Cook the chicken to your liking. I cooked it in coconut oil with a soy sauce marinade but you could also bake in the oven. Chop into bite sized pieces if using whole chicken breasts.
  2. Cook the rice according to package instructions. Strain if needed...
  3. In a large bowl, combine the rice (allow to cool slightly first), leafy greens, tomatoes, edamame beans, chicken and avocado.
  4. Mix well to incorporate ingredients in every bit
  5. This made 4 lunch portions.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Curried Lentils

My last day in Boston, I woke up to an empty apartment having packed my belongings into suitcases and slept on a sheet-less bed. After having someone come and take my bed away, I couldn't stand being in the shell that was once my apartment. So I spent the day walking around Boston, saying goodbye. I walked the length of Newbury Street, remembering when I was fascinated by all the cupcake shops in the area.

When I reached the end near Hynes Convention Center, I stopped at the Clover Food Lab truck. Food trucks were another thing that Boston introduced to me that I still think is the coolest thing ever and love the creativity and flavors the owners create. At Clover, I chose their curried lentils and ate them near Kenmore, in the shadow of Fenway Park before continuing to Brookline to visit the apartment where the author of some letters I have once lived.

This recipe is inspired by those lentils and it reminded me of that day which was bright and sunny, perfect for a farewell walking tour. Originally, these were served cold and with what I believe was shredded carrots. When I prepared them at home, I ate these lentils warm and with yellow peppers instead but with subtle nods to Boston food trucks. Which are probably subtle nods to other places in the world.

I'm still adjusting to measurement systems here and I had to strain some rice I made after using a flatmate's measuring cups which I now realize was not in cups but some other form of measurement. A similar fail was had with the lentils. I guess it's not really a fail, I just had to strain the lentils like pasta when they were cooked instead of them absorbing all the water. Sorry, lentils!

A red onion, garlic and yellow peppers are sauteed in a drizzle of olive oil. Sprinkled with fresh parsley and curry powder, the aromas start to grow in the kitchen. Lentils and vegetables are stirred together and topped with avocado. It's an easy but filling meal or great as a side. Try it cold for all those barbecues coming up this summer!


  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 large (or 2 small) yellow bell peppers
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  1. In a medium saucepan, cook the lentils based on package instructions (likely a 1:2 ratio of lentils and water).
  2. In a medium skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil (or vegetable or coconut oil). Add the onion and garlic.
  3. Stir in the peppers with the onion and garlic. Saute until softened, adding the parsley and curry as they cook.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the lentils and vegetables, stirring to combine. 
  5. Top with avocado and enjoy!