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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Peanut Noodles with Edamame, Carrots & Flowers (Inspired by Neutral Milk Hotel)

THE DISH
Peanut noodles with carrots and edible flowers

THE INSPIRATION
Perhaps Neutral Milk Hotel doesn’t conjure up images of Asian noodle entrées, but go with us here. Jeff Mangum’s lyrics are at once deeply moving and direct, while also abstract, obtuse and occasionally just plain odd. “When you were young you were the King of Carrot Flowers” is arguably the most memorable line of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and inspiration, it seems, can be incredibly simple. “King of Carrot Flowers” Pts. One-Three was the muse for our dish where carrots take center stage. We tossed in some edible flowers for good measure (more out of aesthetic interests — they were a tad bitter for our tastes) and then scratched our heads for a good while and pondered.

“King of Carrot Flowers Pt. One” rides along on the strength of Mangum’s voice and engaging lyrics. The carrots, cucumbers and edamame are just as simple and as refreshing as the melody. Imagine that the noodles are “holy rattlesnakes” and you’re good to go. Transition into Pts. Two & Three and things get more complicated. After Mangum pronounces his love for “you” (or is it for Jesus Christ? Has anyone figured that one out?), the fuzzed-out bass kicks in and the sound gets nice and muddy, almost as if it were covered in a delicious peanut-based dressing. The curry paste and chili powder kick things up a notch as the band goes wild, trumpets blaring, bass crunching, and drums thumping like angry giants. Still, the real focus is the interaction between the peanut butter dressing and the carrots, which just seem to work well together. We wanted to sneak a few peas into the recipe and make a lame pun involving “A Baby for Pree,” but the edamame fit much more naturally. Anyway, make this at a family gathering and have your mom stick a fork right into it (as opposed to daddy’s shoulder). And that is officially the last bad joke.

The new Neutral Milk Hotel vinyl box set (released last fall) compiles pretty much all of their music, spanning two 12″ records, two 10″ EPs, three 7″ singles and two posters. On top of that, Jeff Mangum has been making more and more public appearances and playing concerts here and there. Anticipation over the band’s prodigal return is quite high (and perhaps far too hopeful), but what better time to revisit some of the best music from the last 20 years? Better yet, what better time to eat some carrots and noodles?

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PB&J Smoothie (Inspired by Ghostpoet)

THE DISH
Peanut butter and blackberry smoothie

THE INSPIRATION
About a year ago, British singer/producer Ghostpoet put out a Mercury Prize-nominated album called Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam; it’s low key and usually sorta sleepy-sounding, consisting mostly of songs about being down on your luck, but with a hint of optimism. “Cash and Carry Me Home” is about a hangover (and in the bigger picture, asking for help when you’ve hit a low place in your life): “Morning’s approached and I wrestle with a headache/ That was spawned in hell by the devil himself,” he says. And if you follow his Twitter, you’ll learn that he sometimes lets wine get the best of him. (Hey, don’t we all?)

A good hangover cure requires protein (and therefore energy), so I made a smoothie inspired by the album name, with peanut butter and berries (instead of jam, because I think that’d be even weirder than this already sounds). I think blackberries are fitting for the “melancholy” part, since I usually have to pick through the sour to find the sweet. And uh, I have to be honest, the flavor of peanut butter and jelly in liquid(ish) form tastes about as strange as it sounds — but then again, if you’re trying to shake off a massive hangover, is anything really going to taste good?

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Indie Rock Deli: “She Don’t Use Jelly” Toast (Inspired by the Flaming Lips)


Top row from left: Lox; curried apples; cinnamon/sugar
Bottom row from left: Apples/honey; peanut butter-caramelized banana; beet/egg/avocado salad

“I know a girl who thinks of ghosts/
She’ll make ya breakfast/
She’ll make ya toast/
She don’t use butter/
She don’t use cheese/
She don’t use jelly/
Or any of these/
She uses vaseline”
— “She Don’t Use Jelly” by the Flaming Lips

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

THE DISH
Six variations of butter-, cheese-, and jelly-less toasts (recipe + close-ups at the bottom)

THE INSPIRATION
See the lyrics above; pretty self-explanatory!

ABOUT THE ARTIST
Do I really need to tell you about the Flaming Lips? If so, you should probably just read this.

ABOUT INDIE ROCK DELI
It all started here, with a normal day at work that turned into an hours-long giggle fit. Indie Rock Deli dishes are inspired by punny takes on band names and song titles. Leave your own suggestions in the comments and they might be used in a future post! (No, they definitely don’t have to actually be indie rock.)

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