Sister Shortbread

When you are going through childhood, you assume your reality is everyone’s reality. Moms erect gingerbread houses with soup cans at Christmas time so you can load the roof up with icing and Frosted Mini Wheat shingles. Dads make waffles on Saturday mornings and sing really loudly in the car. Every Sunday, the kids are obnoxious and mouthy about going to church until Mom yells, “GET in the goddamn CAR! And you made me take the Lord’s name in vain on the way to church!” No? Just us? Alright, then.

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And then there are your siblings. Or, in my case, my younger sister. I assumed everyone with a sister realized they had a built-in best friend and playmate for life. What could be easier? I remained naïve until third grade, when I was walking in line behind one of my classmates. He greeted his passing older brother by saying, “Hey, retard.” Astonished, I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh, the R-word. And, that wasn’t nice to say to his brother.” I know, I was Bambi.

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Santa… No… This can’t be true…

(This same boy would later ruin the illusion of Santa Claus for me. I cried. A lot. But now is not the time to get into the sob stories of senior high school.) Let’s just say, some jackasses are born, some are made. This kid was both.

The concept of sibling cruelty was completely lost on me. Not to get too Hallmark Christmas Channel on you, but for the most part, my sister and I were completely happy companions. Different but very compatible, each other’s best audience, and in constant pursuit of making one another incontinent with laughter.

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One of my favorite games to play with Sister was Hadley’s Restaurant. Sister didn’t care much about food, but enjoyed watching TV and being served. I would seat her at the kitchen table, and with my tablet and pen necklace, take her lunch order. The 8-year old would have her usual: a peanut butter sandwich on white bread, tortilla chips, Gushers, a Capri-Sun. I would happily prepare the plate, prepare my own plate, and serve the lunch. In what would become our classic dynamic, she would eat half her lunch, get bored, and leave the table. I, on the other hand, never left food on my plate and was sad when I finished my sandwich.

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Now, we are both adults and these fundamental food philosophies still exist: I live to eat, and Sister eats to live. And, maybe I should have bitched less about going to church, because the Good Lord has afflicted me with the stretch marks that come from handling a bag f Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. Sister eats Chipotle burritos like the Coneheads eat grinders, and is asking the salesgirl, “Do you have this in a 2?” Infuriating and a therapist’s fodder, I know.

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Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Chipotle burritos. This food example encapsulates my and Sister’s food preferences to a ‘T.’ And, describes what I believe are the two camps of basic taste preference: Camp Sweet and Camp Salty. If you don’t know where to fly your flag, we can play a game. It’s the DUFF version of the sexy college game Would You Rather? Otherwise known as:

Would You Rather Eat?

For breakfast: a ham & cheese omelet OR chocolate chip pancakes.

For snack: chips and guacamole OR greek yogurt with granola

For dessert: a beer OR a Frosty

If you are washing down your eggs and guacamole with a Corona, you are sitting in Camp Salty. If you are housing a gigantic stack of pancakes, but still feel the need for that Frosty later today, waddle on over to Camp Sweet.

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Camp for those who can’t decide.

Of course, we all want to eat all of the things. Depending on the lunar cycle, the monthly cycle, what pants you are wearing, etc. That’s not the point. The point is: inherent taste preference is binary and goes one of two ways. Case in point, when Sister and I finish a lunch date and decide to walk it off by going to lululemon, without fail, the conversation goes like this:

Sis: You know what I could go for right now?

H: Sour patch kids?

S: Yep.

H: You know what I could go for right now?

S: A chocolate chip cookie?

H: Yep.

Re-route to lululemon via CVS and we’re good to go.

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It’s true, Sister and I may sit in different taste camps. Let alone, we sit in different camps when it comes to style, hobbies, aggravations, coffee, and most other things. And, on a daily basis, we see different oceans. But, I can easily say: nothing is better than when we are together, and everything is better when we are together. Our synergy makes the punch line funnier, the storytelling more magical, and the hours fleeting.

If I had to a pick a cookie mascot, one that best represents Sister and me (and I should because this is in fact a food blog), there is but one choice:

Salted Chocolate Shortbread

I salivate as type the words. This cookie is unexpected, unusual, and delightful. The texture is divine, and the sweet-salty combination will knock your slippers off. (Are you not wearing slippers? There’s your first problem). This cookie is where the campers from Sweet and Salty have their end-of-the-summer inter-camp mixer and they end up playing spin-the-bottle. Everybody wins.

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“Lay one on me, Stephanie Tanner.”

So, the Salted Chocolate Shortbread gets the honor of being associated with Sister. And, she gets the honor of being associated with a cookie worthy of your attention. Therefore, she will now lovingly be referred to as: Sister Shortbread

 

Salted Chocolate Shortbread

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Receipe adapted from browneyedbaker.com

What You’ll Need

A hot oven (325° F)

11 Tbsp salted butter (room temperature)

2/3 C brown sugar

¼ C White sugar

1 tsp Vanilla extract

¼ tsp salt

1 ¼ C all-purpose flour

1/3 C unsweetened cocoa powder

½ tsp baking soda

Parchment paper

What You’ll Do

  1. Mix together the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder; set aside.
  2. Beat the butter until it is soft and creamy.
  3. Add brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat for 2 minutes.
  4. Turn off the mixer and add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture.
  5. Pulse the mixer 5 times: 1-2 seconds each time. Follow-up with beating the dough for 30 seconds on low speed. The dough will be crumbly.
  6. Pour out the dough on a clean and dry working surface. Separate the dough into halves and roll out into two logs
    • Cheese, M.D. offered this insight: “That looks like a giansables_choco_GF_prep-3t turd.” If your log looks like a turd, you are doing it right.
    • I aim for logs about the diameter of a poker chip.
  7. Wrap your dough logs in plastic wrap and freeze for at least one hour. Again, longer chill is better, but this is the speedy version.
    • The fact that the logs have to be chilled is not actually important to the cookie itself. It just makes it a lot easier for the baker to handle and cut the shortbread.
  8. After an hour, or when you have semi-solid to solid chocolate logs, remove from the freezer, and remove the plastic wrap. Cut your cookies to be a half-inch thick and place them on the parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
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    Pencil eraser = 1/2″ thick
    • I normally am too aloof to ascribe to these fussy details, but I ruined a batch of these cookies because I cut them way too thin and they got singed. Just remind yourself what an actual half-inch looks like, and err on the thick side when you cut.
  9. Arrange your cookies 3×4 on a standard cookie sheet and give them each room to expand as they bake. Sprinkle with salt.
    • Again, it is not like me to fuss over these annoying details. I like to pack my cookies close together. But these shortbread spread out quite a bit. The aforementioned ruined recipe was not only burned, but all touching each other.
    • I give my shortbread a little three-finger Mockingjay “love press” before meagerly salting each of them.

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      We love you Katniss!!
  10. 12 minutes on the middle rack of the hot oven.
    • Middle rack? Spread out? Certain thickness? I know. So high maintenance. Ain’t nobody got time for that. But, you actually do have time for it. Because, these cookies are a taste and texture dream come true. And, I promise, this is the most “Kardashian” I go in terms high maintenance recipes. Because they are so worth it. The cookies. Not that band of plasticized misfits. Ain’t NOBODY got time for that.

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Tips

  • When they come out, the cookies won’t look done. Trust, they are.
  • I like to slide my entire sheet of parchment paper onto the cooling racks. I have demolished plenty of hot cookies in failed attempts at transfers. This way, the cookies don’t continue to cook on a hot cookie sheet, and can cool without risk for destruction. Try, and be amazed.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days, but good luck making them last the night.
nobody-got-time-for-that reading long posts aint nobody got time for that
Thanks for sticking with us.

Happy diabetic coma.

-H.H.

Cheese, M.D.

Shonda Rhimes and Meredith Grey preached eternal wisdom when they coined the phrase: “She’s my person.”

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This concept resonates with everyone, whether or not you have been lucky enough to find “your person.” When you are exploring a new city by way of gelato stands, cleaning up dog diarrhea at 3 AM, and doing mundane adulthood tasks (that no one told you about when you are a kid) – your life experiences feel somewhat incomplete without that person going through it all with you. Your person always makes life better. And hopefully, they feel the same way about you, too. If not, hello Glen Close in Fatal Attraction.

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LOVE MEEEEEE!!!!

I met my person 11 years ago. I looked across the grassy knoll of the college quad and approached the guy who was manning the root beer kegs (yeah, you read that right). One crooked smile coupled with his self-deprecating slouch and I was done for. The sequela known as “cute guy at college becomes husband” is an enchanting fairytale, though not exactly a linear series of events. But, I digress. The important thing: I met the person who actualized the phrase, “my other half.” He thinks I’m all right.

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So, blah-de-blah, enough with the romantics. If you wanted to read soft erotica, you’d be at the grocery store pretending to browse the magazine section. This is supposed to be a food blog. And, it is. But it is also a literary venue. So, in order to communicate the magnitude of today’s food message, I call upon the literary tools you dumped promptly after exiting your SATs: The analogy.

Hadley: her Husband

All food: _____

Remember that useful SAT tip for solving analogies: make a sentence joining the two words to figure out the answer.

Hadley’s person and one true love is her Husband.

So…

All food’s person and one true love is…. CHEESE.

Voila. See? I knew you were a genius.

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Cheese. Is there any other food that can be featured successfully and seamlessly with each course of the meal? I think not.

Wine? Obvi

Apps? Always

Soup? Necessary

Bread? Is the Pope Catholic?

With fruit? With veggies? Over dinner? As dessert? With your port?

From a cow? From a goat? From a wheel? From a can? Grilled? String?

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Yes. Cheese. A thousand times over cheese.

If I practiced idolatry, I would sacrifice hot baguettes and crush families of crackers before a tower of cheese. Magnificent as an individual and the magnificent food soul mate.

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You are a wise one, Honey Boo-Boo.

So, let’s close the circle with a twist you weren’t expecting. Remember, earlier how I said that hopefully when you find your “person,” the imprint is reciprocal? Yeah, that’s the goal. I recall the above analogy and some obscure algebra property to bring it home.

Hadley: her husband

All food: cheese

Husband: _______

I know what you’re thinking: Ooo! Pick me! I know!

Husbands’s person and one true love is Hadley!

Right? It’s Hadley!

Alas, it is not. The answer, again, is cheese. CHEESE. Husband’s person is cheese.

They fall for it every time. (Remember from high school, when in doubt, always pick C. For cheese.)

While cheese hasn’t necessarily been the secret to our marital bliss, it may be the reason why Husband marched through four years of medical school and three years of residency like a dedicated band geek. He barely broke a sweat.

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Like any wonderful husband, he credits me with his successes. I accept that credit on behalf of the real honoree: Mom’s macaroni & cheese. In his first year of medical school, I would make homemade mac & cheese for Husband the night before his big exams. Carbohydrate loading for the geek’s marathon, if you will. He always always earned high marks, so we attributed it to the “good luck mac & cheese” and a faithful tradition was born. (It should be mentioned that Husband tried to institute other “good luck traditions” for the nights before his exams, as well. Those were promptly dismissed. Boys.)

Thus far, every set academic and professional benchmark has been cleared using the bricks of hard work on his part, filled with a mortar of macaroni & cheese. So, Husband will now affectionately be referred to as: Cheese, MD.

— H.H.

P.S. I got you a present! You can now subscribe to your favorite foodie humor blog via e-mail. Adapted from Beyoncé: “On the left, on the left.”

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Mom’s Mac & Cheese

2 C dry macaroni

1/2 C butter

(Please don’t dishonor cheese or my mother by using anything but butter sticks) 

2 Tbsp flour

1 ½ C milk

(The fattier the better. When is that not ever true?)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 ½ C white American cheese

(I buy a block of cheese from the deli, about 0.5 lbs. Some have objected to this choice of cheese. I reply, “Are you not an American?”)

8 x 8 baker’s dish (prepared with cooking spray)

  1. Oven to 350 F.
  2. Cook macaroni as directed.
  3. In a separate saucepan, melt down butter and then add in the flour. Stir until the flour is totally combined.
  4. Add milk to butter mixture slowly, stirring constantly.
  5. On medium high heat, continue stirring until liquid starts bubbling and becomes a white cream sauce. Should take about 5 minutes.
  6. Add salt & pepper. (I don’t measure. The only way I live dangerously.)
  7. Placed strained macaroni in baking dish. Pour sauce over the macaroni and use a spoon to distribute it evenly.
  8. Shred white American cheese block for 1 ½ C of shredded cheese. Sprinkle shredded cheese over macaroni.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbling and delicious looking.
  • My mother covers her dish with tin foil for the first 25 minutes, and removes the tin for the last 5 minutes of baking. She is a much more conscientious than I.  It’s worth mentioning because it browns the mac & cheese nicely at the end.

So there I was…

The day I realized that my lunch box was bigger than my purse. And, I regret to admit that it was not only bigger, but also heavier than my purse. If you must know, I was carrying a standard size Longchamp bag that day, okay? You get the picture.

This would not have been so bad if I had been attending my first day of kindergarten, where the kids all carry empty backpacks. Or, if I was setting sail on an escape raft from Cuba Syria somewhere presumably lovely but full of “hangry” politicians and religious zealots.

We made it because white girl packed us lunch!

No, alas, I was going to work. It was 9 AM. I would probably be leaving by 6 PM.

I had garnered quite the reputation for my lunchbox at work. It quickly became akin to the Mary Poppins carpetbag. But for sugar and carbohydrates. As I would enter my clinic, you could regularly find my co-workers transforming into spoiled lunch box squatters. They’d follow me into my office and ask, “What’d you bring us today??” I created high-maintenance little food monsters and it was all my fault.

Now, backstory: bringing baked goods to share with whoever was in my company had been a perennial habit of mine. Regardless of the setting: work, parties, class, friend’s homes, just because; it was always my first instinct. It was my thing. But I never realized it was a “thing.” I just did it. And, it didn’t take many months of serving up my best baked goods to the Squatters for them to formulate and share their unanimous opinion: “You do realize your future children are going to be fat and get juvenile diabetes, right?”

So, what is this large lunch box about and why has it inspired me? It’s basic and uncomplicated.

  • I love to eat.
  • I hate feeling hungry, and I plan to avoid it.
  • The screen saver of my mind is planning the nutritional intricacies of my next meal
  • I assume everyone else in my life identifies these facts as fundamental and motivating. So, I am just helping.

I know what you are thinking: “What self-respecting woman isn’t looking forward to her next foodgasm? What makes you think you have a different perspective on eating chocolate chip cookie dough directly out of the package? You’re probably just another basic white girl with an annoying food blog. Your name is probably Whitney. Your dog’s full name is Pumpkin Spice Latte. You just wanna dance.

I don’t disagree: the reflex to publicize our every waking decision and thought on social media is obnoxious. It’s self-fulfilling and purely image-driven. I put in a moderate-sized effort not to participate. And, I resisted for as long as I could to join the league of food bloggers, despite encouragement from the Squatters. Why? Because I am just another food-obsessed white girl who loves to bake, cook and eat. Who wants to read about that?

What finally led me break my vow and start this blog was my frustration with the current culture of food blogs. The word that comes to mind is ‘inauthenticity.’ It’s all: coifed chefs with less than 15% body fat and their “cute but chaotic families;” a “crazy busy life” but enough time to take perfect photos of perfect-looking food with perfect fresh ingredients; pristine graphic design coupling the self-deprecating cook with a magnificent organic dinner for twelve. It’s inspiration, but not really because it feels completely unattainable in your own life.

Yes, I generalize. And, yes, I sound like a miserable cynic. But, this is my beef with today’s food blogs. They always left me perturbed and never wanting to participate in the public forum of food discussion. It all felt manufactured and fake. Until… wait for it… NOW.

This is where My Lunchbox is Bigger Than My Purse was born. Now, I can’t speak to the actual authenticity of other food bloggers and their love for food. What I can speak to is my mission for this blog: a place I plan to talk freely about using expired milk in recipes (and not telling the dinner guests); eating a Nutella and peanut butter sandwich over the sink; throwing out handfuls of fresh herbs from the garden because who wants to fuck around with making trays of cilantro ice cubes?

And, because food and compulsively feeding others makes for a large following of friends and opportunists, I will probably feature some of the other characters in my life, too.

It’s the ugly, unflattering, uncool side of food OCD. Written by a woman (and her inner fat girl) whose lunchbox IS in fact bigger than her purse. And she will continue carrying luggage-sized lunch boxes, even when her blogging privileges are revoked and/or when blogging is no longer a thing.

— Hadley Homemaker

(Oh, right, and I picked a really cutesy and charming food blog penname to drive home my point.)