Dimanche (That Means Sunday)

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Welcome to this edition of Dimanche (That Means Sunday), a roundup of things that caught my eye this past week.

This past week was…I’m having trouble finding the right word. Challenging? Definitely. Maddening? Yes. Weirdly fulfilling? Also yes. I’ve been cycling through a lot of emotions, as I’m sure we all are, but often, I circle back to the present. What can I do in this moment to make my life a little easier and more joyful? I ask myself that question throughout the day.

Often, it means baking and cooking to relieve anxiety. Other times it means chatting with friends and family. Today, it meant finishing a watercolor painting that I started yesterday with a pencil drawing.

I read once that we should pay attention to activities that make us lose track of time, because that’s where our true calling lies. I don’t know if my calling is to be a watercolor painter, but I do know that it involves being creative. Whether it’s painting, writing, or working with my hands to make food or flower arrangements, I get the most satisfaction when I’m doing something that requires creativity.

That’s why this period is just as rewarding for me as it is difficult. I have a lot of anxiety about the state of the world and the health of the people I love, but I balance those fears with lots of meaningful activities that perhaps I didn’t have as much time for before. I hope that wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can find your silver lining.

Without further ado, here is Dimanche:

Have you visited The Washington Post‘s Coronavirus page yet? If not, I’d highly recommend checking it out. The newspaper has done a great job covering the pandemic. I trust them more than other news outlets. Even though it’s good to take a break from the news once in a while, especially if you’ve been plugged in all day, this is a place to go to become informed.

I enjoyed writing this story about Known & Grown. The organization, which promotes sustainable farming practices in the St. Louis area, is helping people get fresh, local food during the pandemic by compiling a spreadsheet full of farmers, CSAs, and farmers’ markets, and instructions on how to get their produce. Read more about Known & Grown in my story for Feast Magazine.

Making sourdough bread from scratch is one of my baking goals, so I enjoyed this story from The Washington PostThe newspaper sent a writer to a bread baking camp in Kentucky. The writer already had some experience baking bread, but she became even more adept after attending camp. Read the full story in The Washington Post.

Speaking of bread… The Post also put out an article recently, “The 10 Best Breads in the World.” Not sure if I completely agree with their rankings (hello, challah?), but it’s a fun story to read. Check out the article in The Washington Post.

Need a work-from-home playlist? Paste and I have you covered. The music publication put out a Spotify playlist geared toward people working from home who need some soothing tunes. I’ve been shuffling through songs all week. Check it out here.

You’d be surprised how many things you can make at home instead of buying them. Now is a time to consider this as the government warns people not to make unnecessary grocery trips. Stock up on some ingredients and give these recipes from The Los Angeles Times a try.

We could all use a laugh right now, so without further ado, I bring you these humorous posters from national parks. The posters were inspired by bad Yelp reviews of the parks. “Trees Block View, and Too Many Rocks,” reads a poster based on a one-star Yelp review of Yosemite National Park. Scroll through the posters in this AFAR article.

The pandemic could change the way individuals access mental health care. This story from my friend Tanya Basu covers how the recent relaxation of HIPAA constraints could allow some individuals to access therapy via telehealth. Read more about it in this piece from MIT Technology Review.

Finally, I made some really good iced coffee and I can’t stop thinking about it. I saw on Instagram a recipe for dalgona iced coffee, a South Korean coffee drink that has gained popularity during the pandemic. Why is it so popular? you may ask. Well, for one, it’s delicious, and two, it’s easy to make with ingredients you probably already have at home. Get the recipe in this LA Times story.6712D2F8-0572-4EE5-A01C-F31C68BCAF16.JPGEnjoy your week! Here’s a song to get you started. The Weeknd is a genius.

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Sea Salt Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies

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About a month ago, I posted my definitive list of best chocolate chip cookie recipes. When I did, I got a message from my best friend’s Aunt Gail.

Gail sent me her recipe for espresso chocolate chip cookies with sea salt sprinkled on top. I was excited to try them because I love a coffee chocolate combo, and, as you probably guessed from my definitive rankings of chocolate chip cookies, I love sea salt. I’m a big fan of any sweet recipe that has salt. It’s all about balance.

I made these cookies last night as part of my anxiety baking during COVID-19. Everything was going well until I put them in the oven. I thought I spaced them an inch and a half apart, but apparently, that was not far enough. I took the baking sheets out of the oven and the cookies had all run together.

A part of me wished I would have messed up even more and it would have become a cookie dough sheet cake. Another part of me was ashamed because usually, I don’t make rookie mistakes. The biggest part of me was like, oh well. I moved on.

This morning I separated a few and had them with coffee. I guess the moral of the story is, there are bigger things to worry about than if cookies all run together on the sheet, especially at times like this. Also, as long as the end product still tastes good, you shouldn’t care.

I’m including Gail’s recipe below for those of you who asked for it. I’ll also leave you with this playlist. It’s gotten me through some rough moments this week.

Sea Salt Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter
2 tsp instant espresso powder
1/2 cup (99 g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (106 g) light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup (120 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
8 oz (226 g) dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Turn off the heat and stir in the espresso powder. Make sure to turn off the heat because the espresso will burn if you’re not careful.

Transfer the mixture to a medium heat-safe bowl, and let cool for about 5 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar to the butter and whisk to combine. Add the egg and vanilla extract and whisk well to combine.

With a silicone spatula, add the flour and baking soda and stir the mixture just until it is fully incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chunks, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for 25 to 30 minutes.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Scoop the dough into 1/4-cup-sized balls onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 2 inches between each cookie to allow room for spreading.

Bake the cookies until they are set around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool completely on the baking sheet.

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Aretha Frankenstein Waffles

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Everyone has their own way of dealing with anxiety during COVID-19. For me, it’s nonstop cooking and baking.

Full disclosure: I have a lot of anxiety and times like this only make it worse. It’s not fun shutting myself up in my apartment for days on end. It makes me realize how much I actually like people and coffee shops. The latter might sound shallow, but I don’t care. There’s something soothing about sitting in a pretty place with good music and coffee with strangers, or occasionally a good friend.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, locking yourself in your house for days on end makes you appreciate the simple things and could drive you to the point of insanity.

To avoid the latter, I have a lot of recipes on tap for the next couple weeks. I started over the weekend with these waffles, which are honestly the best I’ve ever made. The recipe came to me from my friends at Perennial City Composting, who saw me post a picture of some banana chocolate muffins I made and gave me this recipe from Food52.

The recipe comes from Aretha Frankenstein, a well-named restaurant in Chattanooga, TN. I need to visit Chattanooga sometime soon.

The waffles are light and fluffy but crispy on the outside. They hold up well to butter and maple syrup, which is the tell-tale sign of an excellent waffle. There’s nothing worse that having a mushy waffle. It makes me sick to even think about it.

A couple tips for making these waffles: You can use whole milk or buttermilk in the batter depending on the flavor you want. I used whole milk because I had some in the fridge, but buttermilk would gives the waffles a more tangy flavor.

When you’re cooking the waffles, make sure to err on the side of overcooking, not undercooking. You don’t want to burn them, but you also don’t want them to come out undercooked and soft. You can accomplish this by leaving them in the waffle iron for 30 seconds to a minute after the light goes off telling you to remove them. If you have a heavy-duty waffle iron, you might not need to do this, but I have a Belgium waffle kind that requires a few seconds more of cooking.

I hope that these waffles bring you joy and comfort in very uncertain times. They soothed me over the weekend. I might make another batch this week.

Here’s a song to get you started on your Aretha Frankenstein waffle journey. It’s one of my favorite Aretha Franklin songs.

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Dimanche (That Means Sunday)

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Welcome to this edition of Dimanche (That Means Sunday), a roundup of things that caught my eye this past week.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard lots about COVID-19 this past week. I had scheduled a vacation with my boyfriend to go to Table Rock Lake (pictured above), so we left town on Tuesday for a little jaunt into the country. Little did we know that in the span of a day, our primary employer, Washington University in St. Louis, would decide to send all undergrads home for the semester and cancel large events.

As we played shuffleboard and mini golf and watched the sun set over the lake, we discussed the pandemic and how it was playing out across the world. The topic of conversation kept shifting back to coronavirus, because honestly, how could it not? The outbreak seemed to ramp up overnight. I felt no small amount of anxiety returning to St. Louis, where the first case was recently reported and sadly, family members of the person with the virus decided to go out into the world and run errands and get their nails done despite a quarantine order.

It goes without saying that these are complicated times. Everyone has to make difficult decisions. Restaurants and coffee shops are grappling with how to best serve customers, facilities for the sick and elderly are trying to deliver the best care to vulnerable populations, and healthy people are figuring out what measures they need to take to stay that way.

I, for one, decided to adopt social distancing. For me, this means that I won’t see anyone in my family who is vulnerable to the virus, and I will go to as few crowded public places as possible. The gym is out, as is yoga or going to the grocery store during peak hours.

I thought this would be difficult for me, but honestly, it has been kind of liberating. I woke up yesterday, went to the stores early to beat the rush, stocked up on some food and toiletries, and then spent the rest of the day reading, watching movies, cooking, and doing exercise videos in my living room. It kind of felt like an extension of the vacation I was just on, except without the beautiful scenery and springlike weather.

I’m sure I’ll get sick of it soon and start craving human interaction. But as one of my friends recently posted on Facebook, there are lots of ways to stay connected during uncertain times. We can FaceTime, text, Skype, and plan activities that we can do together from a distance like watching movies or cooking. The silver lining to all this is, we live in very connected times, so there are multiple ways of staying in touch.

My friend in DC tweeted the other day about COVID-19 and I retweeted him because I agree. He said, “it’s okay to be anxious. it’s okay to purchase groceries. it’s okay to not know what tomorrow will bring. it’s also okay to be perfectly calm. really weird for people to be shaming others considering the scale and novelty of the situation. let people process the way they want to.”

In the midst of the worst public health crisis in recent memory, we should remember that judging others only worsens the problem. People have a right to react the way they want and cope with the situation as they see fit. Of course, this doesn’t mean going out and coughing in someone’s face if you’re sick. But staying calm is just as reasonable as feeling anxious. I think it’s important to feel the way you feel, and to let others do the same.

I tried to highlight some lighthearted stories this week along with ones that focus on COVID-19. We should be informed, but we should also find humor and lightheartedness in these trying times. Without further ado, here is Dimanche:

I read this article about bread baking a couple weeks ago and I’m still thinking about it. Many bakers in the U.S. are creating “the approachable loaf,” or sliced bread made out of mostly whole wheat that’s familiar and affordable enough for mass audiences. The movement comes as bakers are trying to make more healthful loaves that appeal to younger generations. I, for one, wish this had existed when I was little. Read more in the New York Times.

Imagine having your ex-boyfriend date Lady Gaga. I loved reading this editorial from a woman who is dealing with that exact situation. Read the full op-ed in the NYT.

In a typical French move, “La Peste,” or “The Plague,” one of Albert Camus’ most famous novels, is selling really well in the country with the advent of COVID-19. Go figure. Learn more about it in this BFM TV article.

Are you at home practicing social distancing? You should probably try one (or all) of these Indian food recipes. Food writer Tejal Rao created a list of ten recipes and I can’t wait to try the aloo masala and roti. Get the recipes in the NYT.

This article about stress baking in the time of COVID-19 is spot on. I stress bake throughout the year, but it’s particularly comforting when something really bad is happening. It distracts me from my misery, anxiety, etc. Check out this Eater story for more on “quarantine baking,” which is definitely a thing.

Speaking of cooking during a crisis… I’ve made two excellent recipes this weekend that I’ll post on the blog soon. One is Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for greens, meatball, and orzo soup, and the other is for the best waffles I’ve ever made in my life. Stay tuned for the recipes this week.5807D7FB-2EC3-4AFA-9FBD-99FFD14FEF1E.JPGFC984389-EE91-4E5E-B41B-353419FB990F.JPG

I discovered a great roadside attraction on the way back from Table Rock Lake. If you’re driving down Route 66 past Cuba, MO, I’d highly recommend stopping at Bob’s Gasoline Alley. It’s basically a collection of old gas station signs and paraphernalia. It’s super creepy but in the best possible way. Here’s one pic to give you an idea. Learn more here45D6B4A1-87C3-49CB-88A6-8112DF96B47E.JPG

I can’t stop thinking about this very well-written article about COVID-19. Not sure I’m a fan of the title (“You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus), but the article is well-researched and informative. It details some of the efforts to develop a vaccine and how the crisis is playing out across the world. Read more in The Atlantic.

Don’t forget that a great resource during the COVID-19 pandemic is the CDC. Do I trust the government? No. Do I think that the CDC has the most up-to-date information and instructions during a pandemic? Yes. Read more on their website.

Last but certainly not least, this article about a 103-year-old woman making pie in Virginia is the story we all need right now. Mary Fannie Woodruff and her daughters are making pie in a sandwich shop and pie cafe that was once a gas station and convenience store run by Woodruff and her late husband. I hope I can be like Mary Fannie one day. Read more in The Washington Post.

Enjoy your week! Here’s a song to get you started.

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Kale Sweet Potato Lentil Stew

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This soup is a product of St. Louis weather being…well…crazy.

Last week it snowed (I think? It’s been a blur), and this week it’s 60-70 degrees and sunny. I guess I should expect this, as I’ve lived in St. Louis off and on my entire life. But for some reason, it always takes me by surprise.

Which brings me to this kale sweet potato lentil soup. I started craving it during the snowstorm last week and so I bought all the ingredients to make it this weekend. Then the weather took a turn and I suddenly had no desire to eat anything that reminds me of winter.

However, this soup is so good that you’ll want to eat it year-round. Maybe not in 100 degree weather, but any other time. It’s full of good for you ingredients including sweet potatoes, kale, lentils, ginger, and onion, and it has a dash of coconut milk to liven things up.

A critical part of this stew is putting in chili flakes. If you use really good chili flakes, it will take things up a notch. I was lucky that I still had some chili flakes from Sofra that I got as a gift a couple Christmases ago. They added a little kick.

The flavors in the stew improve on day two, so if you save some for lunch or dinner the next day, it will be even better. I had some for lunch today with the window open, enjoying the first of hopefully many spring breezes.

Here’s a song to get you started on your kale sweet potato lentil stew journey.

Kale Sweet Potato Lentil Stew

Ingredients

1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, small dice
1/2 tsp dried chili flakes
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup red lentils
5 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1/2 can full fat coconut milk
1 small bunch of kale, leaves removed and chopped

Directions

Heat the coconut oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat until it melts. Add the onion and sauté for five minutes until it’s soft and slightly brown. Add the chili flakes, coriander, cumin, and turmeric, and stir until the spices are fragrant, about one minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook the mixture for another minute. Add a healthy pinch of salt and pepper.

Add the sweet potatoes and stir so they’re coated with the spices. Add the lentils and stir. Season everything with a couple healthy pinches of salt and pepper. Add the vegetable stock and stir. Place a lid over the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce it to a simmer and tilt the lid so some steam can escape.

Cook the mixture for about 30 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are very tender and the liquid has reduced. Stir in the coconut milk and kale. Place the lid on the pot and cook for about three minutes. Stir and serve hot. Enjoy!

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My Definitive List of Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes

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Over the weekend, my best friend’s mom commented on my Instagram post about buckwheat chocolate chip cookies and said that I should make a definitive list of my best chocolate chip cookie recipes. She was so right. Today I took a deep dive through my archives to find the best chocolate chip cookie recipes for you.

The following list isn’t ranked in any particular order. It includes some of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes, including one for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. There are a lot of naysayers about those kind of cookies, but people need to relax. Once you try this recipe, you’ll be a believer, too.

Without further ado, here is my definitive list of best chocolate chip cookie recipes:

1.) Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies 

These beauties get a big boost from buckwheat, an ingredient that might make some scratch their heads. However, buckwheat gives the cookies a soft, chewy texture that remains for days after baking. Make sure to sprinkle them with sea salt when they come out of the oven.

2.) (Almost) Perfect Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies received top marks from my best friend and her mom over the summer when she was in town visiting. They’re puffy, light, chewy, and soft. Basically, they’ve everything that a good chocolate chip cookie should be. The picture makes them look like scones, but trust me, they are way lighter.

3.) Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Cherries

Now comes the time when I convince you that oatmeal chocolate chip is just as good as regular chocolate chip. If you need some extra convincing, consider that I make a batch of these cookies every couple months, freeze most of them, and eat one every night for dessert with a scoop of ice cream. They’re that good.

4.) Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is a pretty standard chocolate chip cookie recipe except it calls for salted butter instead of unsalted. That being said, they’re not too salty. I personally like the balance of sweet and salty. I’m not a big fan of overly sweet chocolate chip cookies.

5.) My Go-To Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Although this is no longer my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe, it definitely deserves a place of honor on this list. It’s simple and easy, and it has withstood the test of time. I’d recommend eating some dough while you bake them.

6.) The Softest Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt

Have I mentioned how much I like sea salt in chocolate chip cookies? This recipe came to me via my friend Anna, who said that it was one of her favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes. It calls for instant vanilla pudding, which initially freaked me out but I shouldn’t have worried. The cookies are light and fluffy. I guess the vanilla pudding gives them a boost.

7.) Alison Roman’s Salted Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

If you’re unfamiliar with this recipe, you probably don’t spend a lot of time on Instagram. A couple years ago they went viral on social media. I resisted making them for a while, and then I thought, why am I resisting making something that will probably be delicious? Armed with my newfound clarity, I made these cookies and brought them to work. My one coworker told me they were the best thing I’d ever made.

8.) Salted Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies

The tahini-in-baked-goods trend started a few years ago and it’s still going strong. These salted chocolate chip tahini cookies are a product of that time. The tahini gives the cookies a peanut butter-esque flavor. I brought the cookies into work and one of my coworkers, a grumpy man who hardly ever smiled at me, came to my office to tell me how much he liked them. Maybe they’ll work some magic for you, too.

9.) New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies were all the rage many years ago, when the NYT published a chocolate chip cooke recipe from French pastry chef Jacques Torres. The recipe calls for refrigerating the dough for at least a day, which seems excessive but it creates a cookie that is chewy and soft in the center. I’d recommend investing in chocolate disks or wafers instead of chips for these cookies. They’ll distribute more evenly in the dough, creating a better ratio of dough to chocolate in the finished product.

Enjoy these recipes! Here’s a song to get you started.

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Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies from Basically

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Every so often, there’s a cookie that takes Instagram by storm. This year it’s the buckwheat chocolate chip cookie from Basically.

I had the cookies on my list of things to make after seeing them on Instagram a couple weeks ago. Then, my sister sent me a post about them yesterday afternoon and it reminded me to make them. I stopped at the grocery store on the way home from brunch to grab some Callebut chocolate chips. I already had a bag of buckwheat flour at home from when I made chocolate buckwheat waffles (more on those later). I also had sel de Guerande, or French sea salt, for sprinkling the cookies once they came out of the oven.

What does buckwheat in a cookie taste like? you might ask. The answer is that it adds some flavor and texture to the cookies. I’m a big fan of your standard chocolate chip cookie, but these are a delightful spin on a classic recipe. The cookies are soft, dense, and perfectly chewy. They have melted chocolate chips, the perfect amount of salt, and a slight nuttiness that you don’t always get in regular chocolate chip cookies.

A trick for making these cookies turn out as aesthetically pleasing as possible is to bang the cookie sheets after you take them out of the oven. This is admittedly an anxiety-inducing process. After you get use to banging metal against metal, though, it’s oddly liberating. I smacked mine against the stove a couple times to flatten them out and get the nice ridged texture on top.

I made two batches of cookies and I saved the rest of the dough in the freezer. That’s one of my favorite tricks: You make all the dough balls, bake as many as you want, and then freeze the rest to bake later. One of my favorite things to do at night is pop a cookie out of the freezer, bake it, and top it with a little gelato or ice cream. What could be better than on demand cookies?

When I posted these on Instagram yesterday, my best friend’s mom wrote that I should do a roundup of my best chocolate chip cookie recipes. When your best friend’s mom speaks, you listen. I’m going to post the roundup later this week on the blog. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here’s a song to get you started on your buckwheat chocolate chip cookie journey. If you enjoy Tennis, you might like my playlist, “Only Tennis Truly Understands Me.”

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