Peanut butter kisses

Mom’s Peanut Butter Kisses (Inspired by Angel Olsen)

Peanut butter kisses

[This month I was very excited to participate in my first Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! I sent a dozen cookies each to three bloggers (The Dreamery, Karis’ Kitchen and The Hungry Hutch) and then while I was visiting my family in Michigan, I received a dozen cookies each from three different bloggers (brown butter cookies from The Healthy Helping, ranger cookies from Sterling and Oates, and vegan sandies from The Pancake Princess — thank you!). And we did all of this while raising money for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Not a bad way to kick off the holiday season! These are the cookies I sent out.]

THE DISH
Peanut butter cookies with dark chocolate kisses

THE INSPIRATION
There are plenty of songs I can relate to based on personal experiences, but it’s rare that an entire song parallels my own story rather than just a few lines taken extremely out of context. The most recent time it’s happened was this fall with Angel Olsen‘s song “Lonely Universe,” from her incredible album Half Way Home (on my best-of-2012 list). It’s a gorgeous song about losing a loved one, and while I don’t know Olsen’s story behind it, for me it’s about the day my mom died, in July 1999, a few days after I turned 12. She had been diagnosed with cancer almost a year earlier, and just a month before I’d learned that she wasn’t likely to make it through the summer. My sister and I were at my dad’s house for the weekend and got a call to come home because she’d gotten weaker, could no longer speak and our then-5-year-old brother wanted us there. The house was crowded with aunts and uncles and grandparents; my most vivid memory of the day was when my grandma pulled me out of the room as my mom took her last breaths, so I couldn’t watch her go, and I tried looking back but couldn’t see through the crowd. The kids were carted across the street to our neighbor’s house while her body was taken to the funeral home.

There’s a line in “Lonely Universe” about not knowing what you have until it’s gone, and while I don’t feel that way about my mom — as far as I can remember, we had a good relationship and I certainly knew how significant of a loss it was at the time — there are still things I didn’t fully appreciate while she was around. Most relevant here is that I missed out on helping her in the kitchen and letting her teach me how to cook and bake; instead I did it largely on my own many years later. Olsen sings about finding the way home after a loss, and part of my finding a way home — since I found my way around the kitchen — has been learning some of the recipes I remember from when I was a kid. As more memories fade through the years, it makes me feel more connected to her, and among many other things, I know she’d be proud that I learned how to fend for myself, or at least learned how to feed myself (and, just as importantly, others). Peanut butter kiss cookies were a favorite from my mom’s kitchen; they’re a tried-and-true classic, and this is (somehow?!) the first time I’ve made them.

There’s another part of the song where Olsen sings, “The winter months, they do make you feel stronger.” The holiday season can be tough (and was especially so in the first few years without her), but it’s also a time of year that I feel the strongest because even more so than usual, I’m consistently reminded of how blessed I am to have so many people who are here to share food and gifts and good times. I picked these treats because they’re traditional — and I’m a sentimental sucker for family and holiday traditions — and making them myself definitely got me a little bit closer to home.

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Digestive Biscuits (Inspired by Félix)

THE DISH
British digestive biscuits

THE INSPIRATION
Holy Molar, the newest record from British chamber-pop group Félix, has been in regular rotation since my editor recommended them to me a few weeks ago. Frontwoman Lucinda Chua reminds me of a mix of early Cat Power, a mellowed-out Regina Spektor, and the 2006 solo album from Casey Dienel (of White Hinterland). The piano-backed songs are sad, pretty and simple (“Friday night is the worst night to be alive,” Chua sings on “Oh Thee 73”). The last track is called “Little Biscuit,” so I made digestive biscuits, a type of not-too-sweet British cookie that I admittedly am not particularly familiar with, but I went with those instead of American-style biscuits because of the band’s roots. However, digestives actually ended up being more fitting for other reasons: Of course there’s the album’s name, which is a line from a couple of its songs, and digestives require a little more work from one’s teeth than buttermilk biscuits. But digestive biscuits — which, not surprisingly, were first created as a digestive aid, also reminded me of “Hate Song,” which starts with the line “Why is there so much bad stuff inside of you?” This might be stretching it a bit, but songwriting can also be a way to cleanse yourself of the “bad stuff” built up inside. Anyway, I’m not sure how authentic these are, but they were tasty — a bit like oatmeal cookies with a smoother texture.

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Peppermint Meringue Cookies (Inspired by the White Stripes)

THE DISH
Red-striped peppermint meringue cookies

THE INSPIRATION
I first had the idea for this post when the White Stripes broke up near the beginning of this year. My friend Zak — who is mostly responsible for getting me into them when we were in high school — came over and we attempted (and failed) at meringues, and also failed at another kind of cookie, all of this while blasting the band’s music. I revisited the meringues over the weekend and failed, yet again (though this time my new friend Larissa had the brilliant idea to add corn starch and turn it into a flat pavlova-type thing, which was delicious despite not being what we wanted it to be). I tried on Monday for a third time, and they still didn’t come out exactly as planned but, for the most part they worked and they’re delicious. Let’s call them a happy accident.

There are a million possibilities for food based on the White Stripes (“Apple Blossom,” “Little Cream Soda,” “Ball and Biscuit,” to name a few), and this certainly isn’t the best, nor will it probably be the last on this site — but it’s inspired by the song “Sugar Never Tasted So Good,” as most of what’s in them is sugar (and egg whites), and of course the red swirls are for the band’s red and white everything, which is perfect for the holiday season.

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Kurt Cobain’s No-Bake Cookies

THE DISH
No-bake cookies (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
Kurt Cobain made cookies? Apparently, or he at least had some interest in doing so. While reading through Cobain’s journals as research for a really cool feature we did on eMusic, I found a jotted-down recipe for no-bake cookies (as well as one for his mom’s shrimp pasta salad). This month marks the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind, so in honor of the album’s anniversary I made his cookies to the best of my ability! (And they’re even more appropriate for this week seeing as I’m headed to grunge’s birthplace, Seattle, on Friday.) Strangely enough, they do not have peanut butter in them, like every other no-bake cookie I have ever made or eaten, but I assure you they are still just as fudgy and gooey as the ones that do.

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Caffeinated Coffee-Chocolate Cookies (Inspired by TV on the Radio)

http://listen.grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf

THE DISH
Coffee/chocolate chip cookie sandwiches with chocolate-coffee filling (Recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
There are two parts to this (both super literal — sorry dudes, more-creative things coming soon!): TV on the Radio have a new record out, Nine Types of Light; I admit I haven’t spent a ton of time with it yet, but the album closer is called “Caffeinated Consciousness”; that combined with the band’s excellent 2006 album Return to Cookie Mountain? These cookies shouldn’t come as much of a surprise! And yes, they are in a mountain on the plate.

ABOUT THE BAND
For the past decade, TV on the Radio have been making electro-rock music that makes me think of college dance parties and the sea of fist-pumpers that flooded half of Grant Park when I saw the band at Lollapalooza a few years ago. Their 2008 LP Dear Science won that year’s Pazz & Jop critics’ poll, and they’re simply an all-around awesome band. (On an incredibly upsetting note, bassist Gerard Smith passed away from lung cancer about a week ago … I had this post planned before then but still wanted to share it; my heart goes out to the band and Smith’s family and friends.)
TV on the Radio on MySpace

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Black & White Cookies + Saying Goodbye to LCD Soundsystem

And to tell the truth
Oh, this could be the last time
So here we go
Like a sail’s force into the night

And if I made a fool, if I made a fool, if I made a fool
On the road, there’s always this
And if I’m sewn into submission
I can still come home to this
— LCD Soundsystem, “All My Friends”

http://listen.grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf

On Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, James Murphy and the rest of LCD Soundsystem got that song out of the way early — near the end of the first of three hour-long sets that made up their last hurrah. I could feel the tears swelling up in my eyes, but my jumping up and down and singing along kept them from actually falling. If I had stood still, though, I would’ve lost it — just like I almost did the last time I saw them, last year with some of my best friends. That band means a lot to me, and while I’m sad it’s over, the night was one hell of a celebration with some of the people closest to me, made even more exciting by the really awesome folks we met throughout the night. I won’t recap the whole thing, but I’ll at least say that the show was equal parts phenomenal and exhausting. By the end of it, I was so worn out that I didn’t have much energy to even be sad anymore — which perhaps was the plan. Some random thoughts: I flipped out when Win, Regine and Will from Arcade Fire joined the band on stage for “North American Scum” (fun fact: I tried to get that song’s title engraved on the back of my iPod, but Apple decided it was inappropriate); “45:33” didn’t feel as long as I expected it to; and I sorta wished James was a little closer in drunkenness to LCD’s show at Music Hall of Williamsburg last year. Anyway, even though we nearly froze waiting three hours in 15-degree weather to buy the tickets, and then got in line way earlier than we needed to, it was all totally worth it. Very excited to see what James Murphy does next.


(Me with my ticket; photo by my buddy Dominick Mastrangelo, on Brooklyn Vegan)

THE DISH
Classic black and white cookies (recipe link + photos from the show)

THE INSPIRATION
I made classic New York black and white cookies for a classic New York band, and a nod to James Murphy’s request that everyone at the last show wear all black and white. A lot of people followed it but, to the girl in the teal jacket, and the other in the floral dress: WTF? The silver behind the main photo is because of LCD’s amazing 2007 album Sound of Silver. “I was there” is from the band’s first single, “Losing My Edge” (got this idea from Evie, who joked about people selling T-shirts with that on it), and the lightning bolt is the logo of Murphy’s record label, DFA.

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Healthy-ish DIY Dunkaroos (Inspired by Breathe Owl Breathe)

“You are a princess/
And we are pen pals/
I am a dragon/
But you don’t need to know that”
— “Dragon” by Breathe Owl Breathe (from last year’s Magic Central)

http://listen.grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf

THE DISH
Healthy-ish DIY Dunkaroos (recipe at bottom of post)

THE INSPIRATION
Breathe Owl Breathe are magical. I’m still kicking myself for not having gotten into them when I was living in Michigan (they’re from there, too), but it’s definitely better late than never. They’re an inventive, whimsical folk trio that sings about love, fear and humanity, disguised as stories about dragons, lions and various other creatures. I chose this recipe because, just like their music, it’s something that’s kid-friendly but it’s just as rewarding for the grown-ups, too. (The band also just used Kickstarter to fund a children’s book and record.)

On their phenomenal LP Magic Central (one of my favorites of last year), the song “Dragon” is, on the surface, about a dragon and a princess who are pen pals, but the princess doesn’t know the dragon is a dragon because he has good handwriting. But beyond that, it’s a song about loving someone that other people don’t think you should love, even though their hearts are in the right place. So these treats are also fitting because kids will love them (c’mon, they’re animal crackers!), but they’re actually pretty healthy, thanks to whole wheat flour, flax seeds, and raw sugar. The frosting isn’t quite as healthy (lots of powdered sugar), but still uses low-fat cream cheese and plain low-fat yogurt instead of butter, so it’s at least a step up from typical frosting. And, unrelated to the band, apparently February is National Snack Food Month!
Breathe Owl Breathe on MySpace

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