Monsters in my mouth

I’ve already bored you with stories of our fall camping trips, now let’s move to early summer.  Most years growing up, our first two weeks of summer break were spent in the Sierra Nevadas.  As a very young child, we would camp in an incredibly remote area called Jackass Meadows.  This was boil-your-water use the outhouse sort of camping.  It was called Jackass Meadows because of the wild horses.  And the campers.  At some point my parents switched to Twin Lakes.  Often during these trips family and friends would join us.  And always, there were lots of kids.  We’d roam the woods, rivers and lakes like a troupe of scabby-kneed outlaws, our parents providing only one set of instructions: return at dusk.  Not before.

On such adventures, we’d stuff a couple of monster cookies in our pockets.  You know, provisions.  I have no idea why monster cookies have such a scary name, perhaps because they are often big.  Maybe they are the jabberwokcky’s  baked good of choice.

A couple of years ago I asked my mom for the recipe.  She claimed to no longer have it.  So, I did some experimenting.  I failed.  And pretty much forgot about it.  Until a couple of weeks ago when I was thinking about those trips (and how many bears there were…and how stupidly unafraid of them I was).

So I tried another recipe.

Don’t let the oatmeal and peanut butter fool you.  The dough is just really a candy-delivery mechanism.

Hearty, stick to your ribs, good energy for afternoon-long games of ditch.

And sticky.

So, I finally figured out the secret to great monster cookies.  You need to let them rest on their parchment until cool before attempting to remove.  Otherwise, they fall completely apart.


Beastie Boys.  Yes, I realize I’m just like everyone else.

Monster Cookies

Paula Dean (I felt bad for taking a jab at her in last week’s post)


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 12-ounce jar creamy peanut butter
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup multi-colored chocolate candies
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup raisins, optional
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 4 1/2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal (not instant)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.

In a very large mixing bowl, combine the eggs and sugars. Mix well. Add the salt, vanilla, peanut butter, and butter. Mix well. Stir in the chocolate candies, chocolate chips, raisins, if using, baking soda, and oatmeal. Drop by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Do not overbake. Let stand for about 3 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool. When cool, store in large resealable plastic bags.

These also freeze incredibly well!

Hey sugar, how about a lime?

I decided to try this recipe just so I could have an excuse to make lime sugar.

I know, right?

I used a citrus zester because I like to live a little dangerously and risk peeling half my thumb when zesting limes.  You could easily remove lime peel with a sharp pairing knife.  I also think a microplane rasper would work as well (though it would change the texture of your final product).  Once your limes are zested and said zest is chopped, then there is grinding.  With sugar.  Sounds dirty doesn’t it?

The result is fantastic.  Lime sugar is like WD40.   One product, many uses.  Want a little extra zing to your margarita?  Rim your glass with lime sugar.  Want glowing skin?  Just add coconut oil and you’ve got a fresh sugar scrub.  I could go on for days.

In this instance however, we’re making cookies with it.  Sugar cookies to be exact.

In the original recipe, the dough is rolled into a log and chilled.  I was feeling a little frisky and decided to roll-out mine  using this fail-proof method.  One note here, this dough is much softer than a traditional cut-out cookie dough.  For this reason, chill well, cut-out quickly and then re-chill the shaped dough before it goes into the oven.

After cutting-out the flowers, I dipped each in superfine sugar for some added texture.  These would also do well iced.   They are simple but pack a nice punch of flavor.  Lovely with an iced-tea on a summer’s day.


Vampire Weekend.  To me, this band is like all the good things of summer rolled-into one.  Their music makes me want to pop my polo collar, throw off my shoes and wiggle my toes in the sand.   With one exception.  Unlike Vampire Weekend, I do give a f&*k about the Oxford Comma.  Well, insofar as I detest it.  Serial comma?  More like serial killer of my patience.  Why anyone would think it necessary to punctuate before an obviously terminal conjunction is beyond me.

Lime Sugar Cookies

Gourmet, July 2000


  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup lime sugar (see below for instructions)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Beat together butter, shortening, granulated sugar, and 2 tablespoons lime sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together over egg mixture, then beat on low speed until just combined.
  2. Form dough into a 10-inch log (2 inches in diameter) on wax paper, then wrap in wax paper. Chill dough until firm, at least 4 hours.  Alternately, roll-out dough between two sheets of parchment or wax paper.  Chill until firm and cut-out as desired.  Dough can be re-rolled but will need to be chilled in-between (dough is very soft).
  3. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  4. Remove wax paper and cut log into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Bake cookies 1/2 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets in batches in middle of oven 10 to 12 minutes, or until pale golden. Immediately transfer with a metal spatula to a rack set over a sheet of wax paper and sprinkle tops with remaining lime sugar. Cool cookies.

Lime Sugar

  • 6 limes
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  1. Remove zest from limes in strips with a vegetable peeler (or zester or pairing knife) and cut away any white pith from zest (pith imparts a bitter flavor). Chop zest (about 1/2 cup), then grind in a food processor with sugar until mixture is pale green with bits of zest still visible.
  2. Misanthropic Hostess note.  Now you are left with 6 naked limes that will quickly go South if you don’t use them immediately.    So what do you do when life gives you limes?  You make lime simple syrup for warm weather cocktails.  Juice your limes and combine 1/2 C of  water with 1 C of sugar in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved.  When mixture reaches boiling, turn off heat and add lime juice (and any extra lime zest you might have).  Store in a covered container in the fridge.




Because summer is for loafing

Due to a leap year and some unusual academic scheduling, it just happens to be summer in my world.  Of course no one told that to the intermidable marine layer that hangs around my little neck of the woods (to be fair, it does disapate at around 2:00 each afternoon.  Of course it returns again at 3:00).  But still, it’s summer.  Even if it doesn’t feel like it.  So, I’m celebrating now because by the time real summer rolls around in the lovely South Bay, students will be once again moving into the residence halls.

So then, let’s start the summer with a little loafing.  I came across this recipe for a cream cheese butter cake while researching another recipe.  Now, I know I have at least one other butter cake recipe on this blog but this one had to be made.  I simply couldn’t imagine what cake with not only butter but cream cheese would taste like.  Heaven?  Nirvana?  Paula Dean if you licked her arm?

True to its name, this loaf recipe starts with about 1 1/2 cups of butter and another cup of cream cheese.

If it makes you feel any better, all that dairy does go into two loaves.

And what comes out of the oven is beautifully buttery golden.

I knew that if the cake tasted anything like I’d imagined, we were going to need a acidy to counterbalance the heft of the crumb.  Enter fresh strawberries, some lemon juice,  a little sugar and some heat.

This recipe is solid and would stand up well to whatever summer fruit you’d like to throw at it.


I can’t stop listening to the Glee version of Shake it Out.  Don’t really understand it myself.

Cream Cheese Butter Loaf


  • 3 C all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 C butter, softened
  • 1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs


  1. Preheat oven to 325.  Grease and line with parchment, two loaf pans.
  2. Sift together flour and baking powder, set aside.
  3. Using a stand mixer, cream together butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add-in sugar and beat an additional 3-5 minutes.
  4. Beat-in eggs one-at-a-time.
  5. Gently fold-in flour until just combined.  Divide batter between pans.  Place pans on a jelly roll pan.
  6. Bake until inserted toothpick comes-out with crumbs.
  7. Allow to cool on racks for 10 minutes.  Run a butter or table knife around the edges of each cake.  Gently remove and allow to cool completely on wire baking racks.

Strawberry-Citrus Sauce


  • 1 1 /2 lbs strawberries, cleaned and halved.
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 2 TBS lemon or orange juice
  • zest of 1 lemon (or half a navel orange)


  • Combine all ingredients into a heavy-bottom sauce pan.  Simmer strawberries over medium heat until sauce reduces and becomes thick, 5-10 minutes.  Allow sauce to cool.  If desired, blend some of the sauce, leaving some strawberry chunks for texture.  Store in sealed container in the fridge.


You had me at browned butter

I’m always on the lookout for a good chocolate chip cookie variation. So, when I came across one that included browned butter I said, ‘yes please and thank you.’  To add to the sophistication (this isn’t your kindergartner’s chocolate chip cookie), I added toasted walnuts and used super dark chocolate chunks.

Not a lot of process photos here because, well, browned butter isn’t very attractive on its own and at its core, this recipe follows basic chocolate chip cookie protocol (go here if you really need additional photos on how to make this cookie).

Two notes. Browned butter will form some sediment during the delicious smelling browning process.  To keep this out of the dough I strained the cooled butter before using.  Second, I prefer to toast my nuts in a pan rather than in the oven so that I can keep an eye on them (I know, I know).  Heat a large pan over medium head, add nuts tossing occasionally until the start to smell toasty.


….aaaaaand we’re back to Coldplay.

Browned Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I get a weekly recipe email for Southern Food from Diana Rattray.  Who knows why I get the email but I always look at the recipes…mostly because I am amazed by what people eat in the South (at least according to Diana Rattray and Paula Dean).  This recipe is adapted from one of those weekly emails.  Who knew?


  • 1 cup unsalted butter, browned and slightly cooled
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temp
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temp
  • 2 TBS milk
  • 1 TBS vanilla
  • 2 1/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 TSP baking soda
  • 1 TSP kosher salt
  • 2 C dark chocolate chunks (chips would do as well of course)
  • I C toasted walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped (about the same size as your chunks or chips)


  1. To brown butter,  heat in a saucepan over medium heat until the butter begins to simmer. Continue cooking, stirring, just until butter begins to turn golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Pour off into a measuring cup or bowl, leaving darkest sediment behind. Let the butter cool to room temperature.
  2. While butter is browning, toast nuts in a pan on the stovetop or in the oven (350 degrees about 10 minutes).  Let cool, chop roughly.
  3. In a large mixing bowl with electric mixer, beat the browned butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg and egg yolk, milk, and vanilla. Beat on low speed until well blended.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg and butter mixture, mixing on low speed, until a soft dough forms. Scrape the bowl a few times. Stir in the chocolate chunks/chips and walnuts. Cover and chill for about an hour.
  5. Heat the oven to 375°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using a cookie scoop, drop balls of dough onto  parchment, allowing about 2 to 3 inches in between the cookies.
  6. Bake for 6 to 10 minutes, until browned around the edges. Cool completely and transfer to an airtight container for storage.
  7. Makes about 4 dozen cookies, depending on size.


Pouf there it is

Poufs it appears, are all the rage these days.  I’ve been seeing them everywhere. What began as a trickle a couple of years ago (I think I first saw them on Apartment Therapy) has gained momentum in what feels like a comfy deluge.  I believe the gold standard remains the leather Moroccan version (quite possibly from whence this trend has emerged).  But really, they now come in all colors, patterns and even shapes.

And guess what?  You can make your own.  No really, you can.  Because I did.  And if I can make them, so can you.

A couple of years ago I (like everyone else it seems) became smitten with the oft  soft ottomans and thought that a certain set of Kitchen Gods might enjoy one or two strategically placed in front of windows.  After some scouring of the internet, I found an Amy Butler pattern for something she called “Gumdrop Pillows.”  I didn’t post my process at the time because I figured I was on the back-end of a trend…not the front.

After ordering the patterns and sufficient time on, I had the necessary tools.

The first one I made went into the loft.  While I have a first-rate sewing machine, I haven’t ever really advanced past straight lines.  So, on the first try, I didn’t even consider the notion that I should match-up the patterns.

Luckily, the orange brocade was forgiving and you can only see the mismatch at the seams if you are really paying attention.

The second one I made for the office for use as an ottoman.  Even using the bigger pattern, it’s still a little low, but stack another pillow on top and you are good to go.

By this time I had figured out how to match the pattern but of course, had only ordered the amount of yardage listed in the pattern and so couldn’t do it all the way around.  So, if you don’t want to cut of your parrot’s head like I do, add an extra yard or two when purchasing fabric for your tuffet.

By the time I got the to pouf for the master bedroom, I finally succeeded in working with the eight seams.  I love this fabric and wanted to make a duvet from it.  Alas, none was to be found a year later when I was ready for the task.

Kids love these things.  So do the Kitchen Gods.  Though, typical to their kind, they refused to model for this post (can you find the retreating tail?).

One word of caution.  If you do decide to make these, watch the prices on fill.  If not careful, you could easily spend $100 to give these poufs their plump.  I bought mine from Joanne’s Fabric and lucked-out that they were having a sale.  An alternate (that I didn’t think of until I was finished with all three) might be to purchase inexpensive pillows and pull the fill from those.  Be sure to pack the guts really tight to get a perky pouf.