Peppermint Meringue Cookies (Inspired by the White Stripes)

Red-striped peppermint meringue cookies

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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Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce (Inspired by Jonsi)

Sun-dried tomato sauce (recipe here)

I recently learned that a few years ago, Jonsi Birgisson from Sigur Ros made a cookbook with his partner Alex Somers; all raw, vegan dishes that they called their “Good Heart Recipe Book,” along with several cooking videos. Jonsi released his first solo album, Go, last year, and I loved it because it’s light and colorful, with lots of layers and textures, but it doesn’t feel too over-produced or synthetic. Every recipe in Jonsi and Alex’s whole “book” (available as a PDF) is the same way — different colors that come from foods in their natural form, but assembled in ways that create different textures. I chose one of the recipes from the book — the “sundried good heart tomato sauce” — and while I realized I overestimated my fondness of sun-dried tomatoes (as in, I thought I liked them more than I actually do), it was still tasty. My friends and I ate it with pasta and veggies; although I guess maybe we should have kept things raw to keep in line with the book, but oh well.

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Berry-Banana Muffins (Inspired by tUnE-yArDs + my food issues)

Banana muffins with strawberries, raspberries and lemon (recipe here)

I have a problem with sweets. It’s something that’s tormented me my whole life, and even though I now have more control over my health than I ever have, and I feel comfortable in my body and confident in who I am as a whole (yep, it took 23 years to make that happen), I don’t think my sweet tooth is going away anytime soon. I struggle the most when my lack of self-control gets the best of me and I eat, say, four cookies, and then I instantly feel totally disgusting — not just physically, like there’s a huge bomb hanging out in my stomach, but I’m also emotionally disgusted with myself for not having the control to just tell myself no, and then I feel gross and embarrassed.

tUnE-yArDs’ mind-blowing new record, w h o k i l l, brought some of this up for me: In the song “Es-so,” the band’s mastermind Merrill Garbus mentions a piece of cake and says in a sort-of Valley girl tone, “I gotta do right if my body is tight, right?” In the next verse she talks about sticking “a fucking fork in” and then speaks in total disgust, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” It reminds me of my relationship with food and the types of excuses I make to myself for why it’s OK to eat more than I really need to: I’m hungry when I’m really not; I was “good” earlier in the day; I’m stressed; I’m sad because my boyfriend broke up with me, etc. etc. I’m sure I’m not the only woman who relates to that song, which is why I’m so glad it’s there.

Other tracks on w h o k i l l have really been hitting home for me lately, too. The whole record is pure power: The music is confrontational, fearless, adventurous and loud, but it’s also melodic, influenced by African music (the percussion is especially great), and built up with layers of looping. Garbus’s lyrics are strong and she delivers them with intensity (watch the video below). On the album’s last track, “Killa,” she sing-raps, “I’m a new kind of woman, I’m a new kind of woman, I’m a ‘don’t take shit from you’ kind of woman” and then melodically sings, “So buckle up, ’cause we’re gonna move fast/ Drivin’ through things that you gotta get past.” (Seriously, ladies, if you need a post-breakup pick-me-up, however amicable the split, you should probably listen to this record.) Presents: tUnE-yArDs “You Yes You” from Yours Truly on Vimeo.

But back to the food… Even though my self-control now is the best it’s ever been, I’m still in a constant battle with it. But the truth is that I ultimately can still be healthy (and even lose weight, which I’ve done thanks to changing my eating and exercise habits — not dieting) without completely cutting out sugar. Part of how I do that is that I very rarely buy sweets to keep in my apartment, because they definitely will not stay there for long. I’m much more likely to make them instead because that way I know exactly what’s in whatever I’m eating, which cuts down on the fake and processed foods, even if it doesn’t always cut down on the calories. But I often do try to make sweets that are at least a little bit on the healthy side, so even if I am indulging, it’s not always as bad as it could be. (As you can see from plenty of recipes on here, that is not always the case — and that’s OK too.)

As for this recipe: The texture of these muffins didn’t come out quite the way I hoped they would — they’re super, super moist and don’t puff up a whole lot. I think I got a little too creative when modifying the recipe — but they are still tasty. The fruit is because Tune-Yards’ music is colorful, and it has a tropical feel to it (she also mentions the jungle in “Es-so”).
tUnE-yArDs on MySpace
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Mom’s Apple Struedel + a Mother’s Day playlist

Apple struedel (recipe here)

I mentioned in my Family Dinner/Mandel bread post in March that my mom was a really great cook and baker. I think that’s what I remember most about her: waking up in the morning to the smell of zucchini muffins or banana bread, eating a home-cooked meal every night, and seeing her cookbook out on the kitchen counter. I have always, always been a passionate eater, but it wasn’t until college that I developed an interest in making my own food; and because I was 12 when my mom died, it means I didn’t get to learn it by watching her in the kitchen or hearing her cooking secrets.

Before she died she started writing cookbooks for my sister and me, with a bunch of her and other family members’ recipes, along with blank pages so we could add our own. I got my mom’s cookbook just a couple days before moving to New York in fall 2009, so I’ve slowly been testing out recipes I remember growing up with (significantly tougher for me now as a pescatarian, considering how much I loved her meatloaf), as well as adding others that I’ve found on my own and use often. One treat I always loved was my mom’s struedel — apple or apricot — so I pulled out the cookbook and gave it a go. Not surprisingly, it’s not exactly like I remember it, but that’s probably my fault (her recipe was a little bit more vague than the one below, so I had to do some guessing).

My mom with my sister Joey (left) and me, 1989

Most of my memories of my mom in relation to music are of me telling her to stop singing (clearly I was a little snot), and of her playing piano — always by ear, usually Disney songs at my 5-year-old self’s request. She’s the reason I started playing music; piano lessons at age 8, which eventually led to getting my hands in every musical outlet I could through high school. My other musical Mom memories are of a cassette tape of Loggins & Messina’s album The Best of Friends, specifically the song “House at Pooh Corner,” and I only really listened to the side of the tape with that song on it. That’s to say I don’t really know what music my mom loved (and I’ll spare you the Loggins & Messina), so this playlist isn’t a reflection of that. Instead it’s music by powerful women (some of them mothers), including just a couple that remind me of her. [Edit: Since originally publishing this, some of the songs have been removed from my playlist here; sorry about that!]

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

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

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.

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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High-Energy Apple Muffins (Inspired by The Apples In Stereo)

“And the world is made of energy
and the world is possibility
and the world is made of energy
and there’s a light inside of you
and there’s a light inside of me.”
— “Energy” by the Apples in Stereo, from their 2007 LP New Magnetic Wonder

Apple-nut-quinoa muffins

The Apples in Stereo’s perfect spring anthem “Energy” is guaranteed to make you feel great, and these muffins might make you feel even better. They are delicious (I wanted to eat spoonfuls of the batter), but you don’t have to feel bad about eating them because they’re packed with high-energy, high-protein ingredients like quinoa and walnuts, and the sweetness comes mostly from shredded apples, plus raisins, coconut, cinnamon and just a little bit of raw sugar. (Yep, they are vegan.)
The Apples in Stereo on MySpace

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Indie Rock Deli: Super-simple !!!pea salad (Inspired by !!!/chk chk chk)

Super-simple chickpea salad

This recipe has absolutely nothing to do with the band (the oh-so-un-Googleable !!!, pronounced “chk chk chk”); it was just what I ate for lunch most of this week and I wanted to use the name!
!!! on MySpace

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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Heartbeat Chili (Inspired by Allo Darlin’)

“I was in the kitchen on my own making chili/
You came in with an onion and got dicin’/
It seems silly that this chili has two heartbeats in the recipe/
So come over, give your heart to me.”
— “Heartbeat Chilli” by Allo Darlin’ (from last year’s Allo Darlin’

Heart-healthy veggie chili with heart-shaped tortilla crisps (recipe at bottom of post)

Allo Darlin”s self-titled debut was one of my favorite records of 2010 — it’s indie-pop that’s sweet and earnest enough to make me all warm and fuzzy every time I listen. Elizabeth Morris’s lyrics are unbelievably witty, and she occasionally mixes her own lines with snippits of songs like Weezer’s “El Scorcho” (“Kiss Your Lips”) and Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line” (“Heartbeat Chilli”). This ukulele-based song is pretty perfect for Valentine’s Day, and this chili is a perfect dish to warm up with in the hell that is mid-February. I made sure the chili had plenty of heart-healthy ingredients like beans and spinach — beans are great for their omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and fiber; spinach for its potassium and fiber, among other things. The heart-shaped tortilla crisps are kinda self-explanatory.
Allo Darlin’ on MySpace

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Poo Cloud Whoopie Pies (inspired by Owen Pallett/Final Fantasy)

Coconut whoopie pies! (Yep, they are good enough to warrant an exclamation point. Recipe after the cut.)

A few months ago my friend Amanda and I made cupcakes with mini pumpkin pies in them (inspired by a recipe on Bake It In A Cake). I had a ton of pumpkin pie filling left over, so later that week my friend Lauren and I decided to use it to make pumpkin whoopie pies. Figuring out the recipe required some serious math skills since we were working with pie filling, not just pumpkin puree … Anyway, by some miracle they came out perfectly — when we peeled the cakelike cookies off the wax paper, they were like perfect, fluffy, pillowy clouds.

However, this was before I had my amazing batter scoops, so some of them didn’t look so pretty. In fact, Lauren and I decided that a few of them sort of resembled dog poo. See where I’m going with this? Dog poo … fluffy clouds … poo clouds … Owen Pallett’s record He Poos Clouds… Get it?! And — so this whole post isn’t about my having the maturity of a 13-year-old (just most of it) — they really are a great match for the delicacy of Pallett’s music. A little more on that below.

So here are our whoopie pies, Take Two, except this time they’re pretty, they’re lighter, and they do not look like poo. Let me tell you, these are heavenly, and despite how insanely sweet they are, I promise you won’t be able to eat just one.

If we’ve ever talked about music, there’s a good chance I’ve mentioned my love for Owen Pallett (until about a year ago, he performed as Final Fantasy). He’s a Canadian singer/songwriter/composer who has arranged music for and/or played with a bazillion artists (including Grizzly Bear, Beirut, the Pet Shop Boys, Mika, he’s written string arrangements for and played with Arcade Fire…), and his most recent record Heartland, his first under his own name instead of FF, was my favorite of 2010. A lot of his earlier music is rooted in delicately looped violin parts and vocals, with other orchestration on and off; Heartland has plenty of that, but it’s bigger and more produced, with more electronic elements and layers of vocals.
Owen Pallett on MySpace

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