If you’ve been around A Sweet Spoonful for awhile, you already know a few things: 1) I like strong drinks and 2) I don’t often accept freebies or do giveaways on the site. With this next post, one of those things has changed. While I just don’t see the relevance or need for plastic batter bowls that store batter in the handle (what?!), towels specially designed to sop up red wine, or acid-resistant bud vases (hmmm)–I do see the need and relevance for vodka. So when the kind folks over at SKYY vodka wrote to me to introduce their new Ginger infused vodka, I told them to send one on over. Quickly. It’s been a tough few months.
In thinking about how I wanted to mix it, I kept thinking how great it would be to pair it with fresh lime juice and mint. I didn’t add any sweetener because, in addition to liking strong drinks, I dislike syrupy sweet ones. So if this has a bit too much of an edge for you, add a dash of simple syrup. But honestly, I think you’ll like it. It screams outdoor patios and freshly mowed lawns. There’s a drink out there called the Moscow Mule, which is basically vodka, fresh lime juice, and a few glugs of ginger beer. My recipe is in the same family but it’s more like the Stiff Mule: we’re not messing around here. I think I’ll call it that.
O.k., now onto the snacks because, I don’t know about you, but when you start mixing up cocktails, there needs to be a little something to much on. My mom recently bought this incredible narrative cookbook called Screen Doors and Sweet Tea. Have you seen it? It’s written by Martha Hall Foose and in it she details her experiences living in the South and some of the traditional (and not so traditional) recipes she’s come to love from the Mississippi Delta. In all honesty, I haven’t come across a cookbook I’ve been this excited about in a very long time. So I dove right in this afternoon with recipe that looked like it’d pair well with the Stiff Mule: Martha’s Yazoo Cheese Straws. Legend has it that Mary Margaret Yerger began her cheese straw business modestly. Now, 79 years old, they pump out 3,000 pounds of straws a day. That’s a lot of cheddar, my friends. The recipe is flawless. I did make a few adaptations, mixing in a bit of white cheddar and sprinkling sesame seeds on top for a little extra crunch.
Have a great weekend. I’ll be working, but hopefully you’re doing something outside or in the kitchen or creative or new. Cheers to whatever it is you’re up to, and cheers to stiff drinks and delightfully salty snacks.
This recipe asks that you let the cheese come to room temperature before combining it with the butter because the dough will be much smoother. And if you don’t have a cookie press lying around, just form the dough into 2-inch round logs and chill until firm. Then slice into 1/8-inch thick disks and proceed with directions from there.
Slightly adapted from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Prepare a cookie press with the star attachment or an another narrow attachment of your choosing.
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the cheese, butter, salt, pepper, and dash of hot sauce by pulsing until well blended. Then add the flour and pulse until a ball of dough forms. Press long strips of the dough 1 inch apart onto ungreased cookie sheets (I used a Silpat just to be safe). Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges just barely begin to brown.
Remove the cheese straws and let cool completely. Break in half if you’d like (not all of the sesame seeds end up sticking). Store in an air-tight container.
Muddle the mint in a little glass with a pinch of sugar and a few drops of water. Then add to the cocktail shaker along with the other ingredients, shake vigorously, and pour into glass. Garnish with a few sprigs of chopped mint.
It turns out that returning from a sunny honeymoon to a rather rainy, dark stretch of Seattle fall hasn't been the easiest transition. Sam and I have been struggling a little to find our groove with work projects and even simple routines like cooking meals for one another and getting out of the easy daily ruts that can happen to us all. When we were traveling, we made some new vows to each other -- ways we can keep the fall and winter from feeling a bit gloomy, as tends to happen at a certain point living in the Pacific Northwest (for me, at least): from weekly wine tastings at our neighborhood wine shop to going on more lake walks. And I suppose that's one of the most energizing and invigorating parts about travel, isn't it? The opposite of the daily rut: the constant newness and discovery around every corner. One of my favorite small moments in Italy took place at a cafe in Naples when I accidentally ordered the wrong pastry and, instead, was brought this funny looking cousin of a croissant. We had a wonderfully sunny little table with strong cappuccino, and, disappointed by my lack of ordering prowess, I tried the ugly pastry only to discover my new favorite treat of all time (and the only one I can't pronounce): the sfogliatelle. I couldn't stop talking about this pastry, its thick flaky layers wrapped around a light, citrus-flecked sweet ricotta filling. It was like nothing I'd ever tried -- the perfect marriage of interesting textures and flavors. I became a woman obsessed. I began to see them displayed on every street corner; I researched their origin back at the hotel room, and started to look up recipes for how to recreate them at home. And the reason for the fascination was obviously that they were delicious. But even more: I'm so immersed in the food writing world that I rarely get a chance to discover a dish or a restaurant on my own without hearing tell of it first. And while a long way away from that Italian cafe, I had a similar feeling this week as I scanned the pages of Alice Medrich's new book, Flavor Flours, and baked up a loaf of her beautiful fall pumpkin loaf: Discovery, newness, delight!
I had every intention of starting a new tradition this year and hosting a cookie swap with some of our local friends, but somehow the season really got the best of me and it just hasn't happened. But! That hasn't stopped me from getting a head start on holiday baking; I posted a photo on Instagram the other day of some of my very favorite holiday cookbooks, and asked if there was a way we could all just take the whole week off to bake instead of work. Judging from the responses, it seems I'm not the only one who thinks this would be a really great idea. But back here in reality, cookie baking is relegated to later evenings or, I hope, this weekend we'll find some time to eek in a few batches (the recipe for Sam's mom's Nutmeg Logs is up next, and I'm set on making gingerbread men to take with us down to the Bay Area). Right now on our countertop, we've got a batch of these crumbly, chocolatey, whole grain shortbread that have proven to be a big hit. The ingredient list is small and simple, the technique foolproof, and I think they're a real standout in a sea of holiday cookies.
Hello from the other side! I realize we haven't been back here for a few weeks, and I'm sorry for dropping into a little black hole. My cookbook deadline was Monday, so I've been a writing and editing machine, stepping away from the computer to occasionally clean the house like a crazy person or throw together a most random lunch or dinner. But somehow it all came together although there was something strangely anti-climactic about sending it off: In the days when you'd print out your manuscript and have to walk to the post office and seal it up carefully to send to the publisher, I imagine it would feel much more ceremonial and important --you could stroll out of the building and do a cartwheel. Or high-five a fellow customer on your way out. Instead, I was sitting in our dining room on an incredibly rainy, dark Monday afternoon unable to hit "send." My sister Zoe told me to just close my eyes and do it. Sam gave me the thumbs up. So around 3 p.m. that's what I did. With the click of a button, just like that: it was finished.
Strolling New York City streets during the height of fall when all the leaves are changing and golden light glints off the brownstone windows. This is what I envisioned when I bought tickets to attend my cousin's September wedding earlier this month: Sam and I would extend the trip for a good day or two so we could experience a little bit of fall in the city. We'd finally eat at Prune and have scones and coffee at Buvette, as we always do. Sam wanted to take me to Russ and Daughters, and we'd try to sneak in a new bakery or ice cream shop for good measure. Well, as some of you likely know, my thinking on the weather was premature. New York City fall had yet to descend and, instead, we ambled around the city in a mix of humidity and rain. When we returned home I found myself excited about the crisp evening air, and the fact that the tree across the street had turned a rusty shade of amber. It was time to do a little baking.
We've been waking up early these days with baby Oliver. I've always been a morning person, so this isn't particularly challenging for me -- although the middle of the night feedings have proven to be really tough. There has been a lot of finessing of sleep schedules and figuring out how Sam and I can both get enough to function well the following day. And just when we think we have it down ("gosh, aren't we lucky we have a baby that sleeps?"), everything changes. When I was in the final weeks of pregnancy and would talk about how I couldn't wait for the baby to be here, all of my friends with kids would advise me to sleep as much as possible -- and now I get it. I should've napped more. I should've listened. In getting up at odd times throughout the night with Oliver, I've had the chance to occasionally see some really brilliant sunrises (although not this past week which has been a particularly dark one in Seattle); I've made up some wacky baby tunes that I'm happy no one else can hear; and I generally have a good hour in which I can put him in the sling and walk briskly around the house trying to soothe him back to sleep while also putting away a dish or two or making a quick cup of coffee. In that hour, I can usually get something productive done and this past weekend that something was pear gingerbread.