on the perks of eating alone

I’ve been cooking for just myself a lot these days. With Joanna and many other friends away from Chicago on grand adventures until school starts back up in a few weeks, and our weekly class potlucks on hiatus until fall, I find myself with fewer dinner guests and more back-porch suppers where only a novel and the songs from my end-of-summer playlist are my fellow attendees.

Now, cooking for others is one of my greatest joys in the world. As you regular readers have probably gathered from earlier posts, in my family, food is love, and the more friends and family you can gather together to eat, the better. But somehow, the older I get, the more appreciation I have for being alone in the kitchen and at the dinner table. I am coming to find equal joy in tripling the garlic in a recipe without worrying if anyone else will like it, in not rushing or lingering to adapt to anyone else’s timetable. Don’t worry, y’all are still welcome for dinner any time you can find the time in your busy schedules to stop by.

When I first read the recipe for this roasted tomato pasta, I lumped it squarely in the cooking-for-one category. Garlic, walnuts, tons of tomatoes, and pomegranate molasses are all things I love, but they didn’t seem like a crowd pleasing combo to me. And while the recipe author had me at “6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced,” I would be a little weary to serve something that potent to guests. As soon as I started eating, I immediately became glad that I didn’t have to share. The odd coupling of these ingredients play off each other beautifully and in a way that I never could have expected. And while the dish is certainly garlicy, I didn’t find it overpoweringly so- the cooking technique lends mildness.

Roasted tomato pasta with walnuts

adapted from Aida Mollenkamp’s blog

1/2 pound spagetthi

1 1/2 lb cherry or grape tomatoes, whole or sliced in half if large

1 c shelled walnut halves

2 T olive oil

1 small onion, diced

Salt and pepper

6 cloves garlic, sliced paper thin

2 T pomegranate molasses

1 handful fresh basil, thinly sliced

1 handful fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the spaghetti according to package directions

Toast walnuts on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven until they are seriously toasted, not burnt but past the point of golden brown. You want to bring out their smoky flavor

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy skillet and sautee the onion until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and the garlic and cook for just a few minutes, until the garlic is fragrant.

Add tomatoes, stir well, and cook until they start to collapse and char, about 5 minutes. If the sauce seems dry, you can add some of the pasta water. Add the molasses and cook until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and/or a pinch of sugar as desired.

Combine the noodles and sauce and stir well to coat the pasta. Add the walnuts and herbs.


baking up a storm

Miami decided to give me a little going away present: Tropical Storm Isaac. I could tell you I was annoyed that I had to spend my last weekend home cooped up inside our shuttered house. But that would be far from the truth. If I were still in grade school, I would have dubbed this the perfect storm: the kind that poses enough of a threat that school gets canceled and you have an excuse to stock up on “survival items” like dark chocolate at the grocery store, but at the end of the day, amounts to no more than some rain and wind. No floods. No damage. And no power outages. The latter of which afforded me the opportunity to have the oven going all day long.

Making this
And Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars, a dessert that takes this classic childhood combo to new heights.
And finally, chocolate chip cookies. Cookies are usually not at the top of my list of things to bake, mostly because I’m too impatient for all the waiting that goes into them. From waiting for butter to soften, to waiting for one batch to bake before putting the second, then third, then fourth into the oven, I usually opt for things that are less time-consuming (well, maybe that’s not entirely true). But this lazy, stormy day beckoned me to try out King Arthur Flour Company’s Essential Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie. King Arthur tends to be an authority on all things baking, and I’m glad I trusted their judgment here. I used big bittersweet chocolate chips and toffee bits for an extra deep brown sugar flavor. They were essentially delicious.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d never wish for a tropical storm or hurricane to come our way. But, I’m happy to report from the other side of this non-eventful system that I thoroughly savored the day.
Chase did too.
The Essential Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie (from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tbsp cider vinegar or white vinegar
2 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Optional: 1 cup toffee bits or nuts
Preheat oven to 375. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugars, corn syrup, and vinegar. Add egg. Add vanilla, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Fold in flour, chocolate chips, and any other additions. Drop tablespoon-size scoops of dough onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes (will look slightly underdone in center). Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack to cool.

summer soup and other contradictions

I’ve never been much of a soup girl. I can find a role for potato soup as sick food or tomato soup as a condiment for grilled cheese, but soup is no star of my culinary show. Leave it to me, then, to get a craving for a food that I am categorically indifferent towards, and during the least soup-appropriate month of the year.

If there’s such thing as a seasonal hot soup for August, though, this is it. It manages to be (a) fresh (b) hearty and (c) a soup I actually like, which is a totally novel combination, as far as I know. I had to resist the urge to add garlic or spices or protein of some sort to this recipe, but in the end I was glad that I left it alone.  The simplicity is the charm, in this case, and the pistou lends enough interest to keep you from being bored.

I recommend this recipe highly for all you butternut squash soup lovers out there! There’s just enough of the nutty, butter, onion and squash flavor without the autumn heaviness that winter squash would bring to the dish.

If you’re still holding on to the end of summer too tightly to even consider dusting off the soup pot, the pistou is worth making on its own. The leftovers were perfect on top of scrambled eggs the next day for breakfast.

Summer squash soup with mint-parsley pistou

For the soup
1/2 stick (4 T) butter
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 lb yellow summer squash, halved and thinly sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 medium sized potato, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock

For the pistou
3/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 c chopped green onions
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus black pepper, to taste.

Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion and the salt and cook until soft and starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Add squash, stock, carrots, and potatoes, and pepper to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, then simmer, partially covered, until vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Puree with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender or food processor.

While the vegetables simmer, make the pistou. Pulse mint, parsley, and green onion in a food processor or chopper until finely chopped. Add oil a little at a time, then water and salt, blending until incorporated.

Serve each bowl with a tablespoon of pistou and a piece of crusty bread or toast.

home is where the mango is

For two full weeks, I am home.

yep, that’s a dolphin!

That means lots of basking in the sun, catching up with family and friends, and of course, enjoying the vibrant flavors that Miami has to offer.

There is perhaps no food that screams summer in Miami to me like mangoes. When I was in middle school, my aunt’s family moved into a to a house ten minutes from mine with a mango tree in the backyard (not an uncommon occurrence here). Every June, the tree burst with bright orange fruits. In their ripened state, they plopped to the ground in such rapid succession that they had to collect fruits every morning, noon, and night. In its most prolific year, the tree produced over 300 mangoes in the span of a few weeks! Despite my aunt’s quest to make endless batches of mango salsa, bake loaves of mango bread, and freeze Ziploc bags full of fruit for future mango margaritas, I still received daily phone calls from her begging me to come take mangoes off her hands. For the whole month of June, our kitchen was laced with the intoxicating sweet perfume of ripe mangoes and my cuticles were stained yellow-orange. I ate mangoes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight snack. And when the tree had finally exhausted its supply, I had filled my stomach with its mango quota for the year.

Having spent this June in Chicago, I regrettably missed Miami’s mango season (although I hear it was an unfortunately paltry one—maybe it was trying to not make me too jealous). Upon returning home this week, I had a hankering to fill my summer-long mango void with mango salsa, the most popular use for mangoes among our family. This salsa comes together with just a few fresh ingredients and is delicious on anything from tortilla chips, to seafood, to straight off a spoon. We enjoyed it on Sunday night with grilled jerk chicken skewers and my Abuela’s black beans (two more amazing dishes that deserve their own post another time!)

It’s good to be home.

Mango Salsa

2 large mangoes, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno, finely diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
Juice of 4 limes
Salt to taste (about 2 tsp)
Optional additions for a heartier version: 1 can drained black beans, 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

Mix all ingredients together. Allow salsa to sit covered in fridge for at least an hour before serving to allow flavors to meld.

don’t let this fading summer pass you by

Fact: Joanna is just as kind and wonderful as she seems based on her last post.

Fact: That chocolate torte was just as delicious as the pictures made it look. What a sweet birthday I had.

Fact: Summer is almost over. We’re all gonna have to just take a deep breath and accept it. As much as I love to celebrate my birthday, it has always served a dreaded role as the harbinger of summer’s end and autumn’s impending arrival. As I biked to school in a crisp, almost chilly breeze the other day, I found myself humming these Neko Case lyrics, “let this be a warning/ said the magpie to the morning/ don’t let this fading summer pass you by”

I don’t mean to suggest that summer has passed me by this year in the least. Summer has been packed to the brim with research work, trips, visitors, music, and food. If the summer has lacked for anything, it is lazy, sweltering dog day afternoons that bleed into evenings spent drinking strawberry-basil margaritas on the back porch. So yesterday, I cleaned the junk off said back porch, mixed up a pitcher of said drinks, and cooked a summer comfort food dinner: Ina Garten’s Lemon Pasta with Arugala

I tend to avoid cream sauce because I find it bland and heavy in most incarnations, but the punch of lemon and garlic in this pasta, in combination with the peppery arugula, is anything but boring. It’s creamy and decadent enough to be comforting and satisfying but bright and veggie-filled enough not to weigh you down.

Lemon Pasta with Arugula (adapted from The Barefoot Contessa)

1 T olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, minced

2 lemons, zested then juiced

2 c heavy cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 lb pasta (fusilli or farfalle work well)

1/2 lb baby arugala

1 small bunch broccoli

1/2 c freshly grated parmesan

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes (don’t let it brown). Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, cream, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce begins to thicken.

Meanwhile, trim the broccoli into florets and  cook in a pot of salted, boiling water for about 3 minutes. It should be softened by maintain part of its crunch. Drain and set aside.

Cook the pasta in a large pot until al dente (according to package directions), drain, and return to the pot. Immediately add the sauce and cook for about 3 minutes over medium heat until the pasta absorbs much of the sauce. Pour the pasta and sauce into a large bowl and add the arugula, tomatoes, broccoli, and parmesan. Serve with pepper and garnish with lemon slices.

Happy Birthday Kate!

Something you must know about Kate is that she loves celebrating birthdays.

Her birthday was the first to occur in our class after the start of med school last August. This was before we had become close friends and before I knew just how much import she placed on the fact that everybody has a homemade birthday cake. I will forever regret the fact that Kate baked her own birthday cake in 2011. But this year, things were made right. I had the privilege of spending Kate’s birthday with her in her hometown and indulging in a delicious cinnamon-tinged chocolate cake baked by her mom, every bite proving that baking prowess is certainly genetic. The next night, we had a celebration in Chicago and made sure that Kate did not lift a finger—a difficult task given her much-respected inclination to always provide for others.
So, what do you bake the girl who has poured her heart, soul, and countless bowls of batter and frosting into baking birthday cakes for friends all year long? One of the most decadent desserts out there: Double Chocolate Torte.
This torte was not a new recipe to Kate and I. In February, attempting to remedy Kate’s self-baked birthday cake situation, I made this rich torte to celebrate Kate’s half birthday. When her actual birthday rolled around, she requested the torte again, and I was more than happy to spend a rainy morning taking on this multi-layered baking challenge.
Layer 1: a nearly flourless chocolate cake, so dense it is almost brownie-like.
Layer 2: a fluffy semisweet chocolate mousse with that begins with a custard base and is lightened with egg whites.
Layer 3: slightly sweetened fresh whipped cream, topped with some of the plumpest and juiciest cherries I have encountered all summer.
Three layers are not nearly enough to encapsulate all the sweetness that Kate deserves for her 24th year, but they helped give a small slice of love, appreciation, and indulgence to her on her special day.
Double Chocolate Torte (recipe adapted from Bon Appetit)
8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup all purpose flourMousse:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 lb cherries, pitted and halved

For cake:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan; dust with sugar. Melt chocolate and butter in heavy large saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Cool to lukewarm. Whisk in sugar. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time, blending well after each addition. Mix in vanilla and salt, then flour. Pour batter into pan. Bake until cake just rises in center (tester inserted into center will not come out clean), about 35 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack. Cover; chill while making mousse.

For mousse:
Melt butter in medium metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Whisk yolks, 1/4 cup cream and vanilla in small bowl to blend. Gradually whisk yolk mixture into bowl with melted butter. Whisk constantly over simmering water until thermometer registers 150°F, about 6 minutes (mixture may appear broken). Remove from over water; add chocolate and stir to melt. Set aside. Beat egg whites and 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl to medium-stiff peaks. Whisk 1/4 of beaten egg white mixture into warm chocolate mixture to lighten. Fold in remaining egg white mixture. Pour mousse over cake in pan; smooth top. Chill torte until mousse is set, at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.

Run sharp knife around edge of pan to loosen torte. Release pan sides. Transfer torte to platter. Using electric mixer, beat 3/4 cup cream in medium bowl until peaks form. Spread whipped cream over torte. Top whipped cream with cherries.

summer bounty bruschetta

There’s only two things that money can’t buy/

And that’s true love and home-grown tomatoes

That line from an old John Denver song popped into my head the other day while I was talking to my mom about the abundance of tomatoes she had just harvested from her garden. I have a super strong memory of hearing those lyrics on my brand new Sony Discman as we drove through the Rocky Mountains on a family road trip when I was 8 or 9. The words struck me as deeply true back then, and though my affinity for John Denver has since gone by the wayside, my undying love and appreciation for home-grown tomatoes has remained strong.

Growing up, a bushel basket of ripe tomatoes was constantly present on our front porch from 4th of July to mid-September. If it was a good year, we would have to race to eat or can the ripe ones before the supply was replenished by the next harvest.

And thus what shrimp was to Bubba from Forrest Gump, tomatoes became to me: I was constantly scheming new uses for this bounty. That’s how my twist on bruschetta was born. Way back when I invented this recipe, I had only a vague notion of what bruschetta was supposed to be and didn’t realize that the tomato topping isn’t usually heated. Even though I’ve since tried the more typical raw tomato kind, I prefer my original “mistake”- it just makes for bruschetta that tastes a little more like pizza, and that can’t be a bad thing.

I used day-old olive ciabatta bread for this batch of bruschetta, but have used baguette and even multigrain sandwich bread in the past. Bread is second fiddle to tomato/basil/cheese no matter how you slice it, so anything that tastes nice toasted and is capable of sopping up juice will do.

About 15 medium-sized slices bread

2 T olive oil

5 ripe medium sized tomatoes (the best you can find, the riper the better)

2 T olive oil

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, pressed or grated

salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 c shredded basil

6 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. While it heats, prepare the topping. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces, about 1/4 inch cubes. Drain off most of the excess juice (it’s ok to leave a little, but you don’t want it too soupy). Add the 2 T olive oil, vinegar, onion, garlic, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Brush the bread lightly with olive oil on both sides. Arrange on a baking sheet and toast in hot over for about 5 minutes, until the tops begin to turn golden. Flip over each piece and bake another 2-3 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and divide tomato topping evenly among the bread. Top with cheese and return to the oven until the cheese is thoroughly melted (3-6 minutes). Serve hot.

To the first year class: a recipe for success

Dear MS16,

Congrats on finishing Orientation! We hope you’re excited to officially begin classes today. While embarking on this journey may incite many feelings of unknown and uncertainty, we wanted to provide you with some comfort in the saucy, spicy, cheesy form that we know best.

These veggie enchiladas are a great go-to recipe for any first-year-of-med-school occasion. Whether you make these for dinner for your anatomy group after a long week in lab, for a potluck dinner to feed an army of hungry classmates, or keep a pan of these in the fridge or freezer to have yourself a filling lunch or dinner during a busy week (note: we’ve done all of the above!), we guarantee these enchiladas will never fail you. They’re a high pass in our book, shall we say.

In addition to being tasty, this recipe is extremely med student budget-friendly and just one batch will feed an entire crowd (or one hungry med student over the course of a few days). The veggie version we’ve made pleases all palettes, but if you’re among omnivores, adding cooked chicken or ground beef are also delicious options.

We wish you the best of luck on your first day of classes! We will be here for you, for any support, study tips, and sustenance that you may need!

Sending our lovin’ from the oven,

Joanna and Kate

Veggie Enchiladas

Vegetable filling:

1 poblano pepper

Olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 bell pepper, diced

1 zucchini, diced

1/2 bag frozen corn (recommended: Trader Joe’s fire roasted)

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed

2 tsp cumin

Salt and pepper

Roast poblano pepper over gas flame or under broiler until black on all sides. Remove from flame and place into paper bag to loosen skin. Remove skin and chop pepper into small pieces. Set aside.

In large skillet, heat about 1 tbsp olive oil. Saute onion for about 2 minutes. Add pepper and zucchini and saute another 5-7 minutes, until vegetables are slightly softened. Add frozen corn and beans and cook for another minute. Add cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside filling.

Enchilada Sauce:

1 large onion, chopped

2 T olive oil

3 gloves garlic, minced

1 28 oz can crushed or diced tomatoes

1/3 c water

1/2 c salsa

2 T tomato paste

2-3 chipotle peppers from a can of chipotles in adobo, chopped

2-3 T sugar

salt, to taste

In a large skillet, saute onion in olive oil over medium high heat until onion is soft and begins to brown. Add garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add all other ingredients and combine well. Allow mixture to simmer about 10 minutes until everything is bubbly. Taste to adjust flavors. Remove from heat and puree in small batches in a blender or food processor (immersion blender is ideal for this job). You don’t want the sauce to be completely smooth but don’t leave any big chunks.

To assemble (Coax a friend into helping out with this part. Teamwork is key to swift enchilada making!):

20 corn tortillas

Shredded Mexican blend cheese

Preheat oven to 425. Grease a 9×13 baking dish and a 9×9 baking dish (this recipe makes a ton!) Place 1 1/2 cups of enchilada sauce on the bottom of the 9×13 baking dish and 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of the 9×9 dish.

Combine vegetable filling with 1 cup of enchilada sauce and 1/2 cup of shredded cheese.

Heat a burner on the stove. Working with one tortilla at a time, cook it over the burner, about 30 seconds per side, to warm it and add a little bit of color. Move tortilla onto a work surface and place 1/4 cup of veggie filling in a line down the center, leaving about 1 inch of space on each end. Roll tortilla around filling and place seam side down into baking dish. Repeat this process until all tortillas and filling are used up. Be sure to pack enchiladas tightly in the baking dish so the filling doesn’t come out.

Once all the filled enchiladas are in the dishes, top with remaining enchilada sauce and a healthy sprinkling of cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, removing the foil in the last 5 minutes so that the top gets golden brown. Serve with your choice of toppings. Our favorites include avocado, cilantro, lime, sour cream, and salsa.

Harvest Table

This summer I am working at a youth center with an incredible and bountiful rooftop garden. Every Friday afternoon, there is a group of teenagers at the center who run a Harvest Table: an outdoor market where they sell the beautiful fruits, vegetables, and herbs they have been growing throughout the summer. I am always amazed to see the great variety of produce they have and, furthermore, the low prices they offer. This past Friday was the last Harvest Table of the summer, and although I only had a few coins in my wallet, I was able to scrape $1.75 together to purchase some unique items I had never cooked with before: pattypan (or “spaceship”) squash and Sun Gold cherry tomatoes.

Although I had plans to experiment with a new recipe, I found myself hankering for an old summer favorite that I had not yet made all season: orzo with roasted vegetables, cherry tomatoes, lemon, and basil. My sister and I have made countless versions of this recipe over the course of many summers, following a basic formula. Simply roast your favorite vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, squash are all great candidates), toss them with hot pasta, lemon zest and juice, fresh basil, and cherry tomatoes. Sometimes we add spinach, letting it wilt with the heat of the orzo. Oftentimes we add toasted pine nuts and feta. If you’re looking to make this a heartier dish—as I was tonight—a can of beans or some roasted chicken helps add some bulk.

So, how did my Harvest Table purchases fare? The pattypan squash was quite interesting in both texture and flavor—midway between the clean crunch of a zucchini and the sweet starchiness of a butternut squash. The Sun Gold tomatoes were like little orange candies, adding a pop of brightness to the dish. I am happy to support the teens who run this amazing Harvest Table and to add new, locally-grown produce to this time-honored summer classic.

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables, Sun Gold Tomatoes, Basil & Lemon
1 pattypan squash
1 onion
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup orzo (uncooked)
4 cups fresh spinach
1 cup Sun Gold tomatoes, halved
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
Handful fresh basil, thinly sliced
1 lemon
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425. Dice squash into small pieces. Cut onion in medium thick slices. Toss squash and onion with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet and roast for about an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until squash is tender.

While vegetables are roasting, cook orzo until al dente.

Chop spinach and place it at the bottom of a large bowl. Place drained orzo on top of spinach and allow it to sit on top for about 5 minutes, so that the hot orzo wilts the spinach. Once vegetables are roasted, add them to the orzo and spinach mixture along with tomatoes, basil, zest and juice of 1 lemon, garbanzo beans, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or cold.

in search of lost time (or remembrance of cookies past)

I love nostalgia. I keep a big box of postcards, ticket stubs, theater programs, and other ephemera under my bed and each time I pack my stuff and move to a new place (as I did on Monday), I flip through the collection and indulge my inner sap. I often listen to oldies on the radio and get nostalgic for music that I listened to with my parents in the 90s because they were nostalgic for the 60s and the 70s. But the one kind of nostalgia to rule them all in my heart is food nostalgia. Let Proust have his madelines- I’ll take these oatmeal peanut better sandwich cookies with a filling that tastes exactly like those chocolate covered peanut butter wafers we used to eat at afternoon snack time at school and after tee-ball games in elementary school. I can’t remember the name for sure – I think they were called Nutty Bars – but I definitely remember the corn-syrup-infused-deliciousness.


The best kind of food nostalgia is the unplanned kind. You can’t just set out to make a chocolate cake that tastes exactly like the one your mama made for your 6th birthday unless you just want to set yourself up for disappointment (#realtalk from your food blogger). I’ve tried that approach and I now know better. I chose this recipe not because I was craving the sweets of my younger years but because oatmeal with peanut butter and cinnamon is one of my favorite breakfasts and putting it into cookie form sounded like a way to make something great even greater. The communion with the junk food of my youth was totally serendipitous.

I usually get grouchy when cookie recipes tell me what size utensil to use to measure and shape my dough. I’ll make my cookies whatever size I feel like making them, thankyouverymuch control-freak recipe writer. But mismatched sandwich cookies are just awkward, so I recommend actually measuring out your dough into equally sized pieces in this instance. Please make an odd number of cookies so you can dip the odd cookie out into the extra filling while it’s still warm. Even if you don’t share my odd nostalgia for highly processed, chocolate covered snacks from the 90s, I hope you can indulge your inner 6-year-old with a chewy, substantial cookie and a glass of milk.


Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies with Peanut Butter Filling

adapted from Joy the Baker

For the cookies:

1 stick butter, softened

1 c brown sugar

1 large egg

1 t vanilla

1 1/4 c uncooked quick oatmeal (the original recipe called for old fashioned oats, so I would wager that either kind will work)

1 c all-purpose flour

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

1/4 t ground nutmeg

1 t cinnamon

For the filling:

3 T butter, at room temperature

1/2 c smooth peanut butter

1 c powdered sugar

3-4 T milk

Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Make the cookies: beat the brown sugar and butter until creamy, about 3-4 min with a hand mixer.  Add egg and beat on medium speed about 1 minute. Add vanilla extract and mix well.

In another bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the dries slowly to the butter mixture, mixing until just incorporated.

Portion the dough with a teaspoon and roll each piece into a ball and place on prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes until they just begin to brown. Let cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

Make the filling: place butter, peanut butter, and powdered sugar in a bowl. Mix on medium speed, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you’ve reached an easily spreadable but still thick consistency.

When cookies are completely cool, flip them over and spread the flat sides of half of the cookies with peanut butter filling. Store in the refrigerator- they’re good served slightly chilled.