Riffle – Let’s talk about it, shall we?

the-story-of-edgar-sawtelle

I believe I’ve made it clear that I’m a big reader. I have, haven’t I? Right now I’m reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. I know, I know,  I’m about 4 years behind everyone else. I read for fun every single day, without fail. I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember. I never go anywhere without a book and if I don’t read before bed, I can’t fall asleep. I sound like a total nerd, right? Well it’s my lot in life and quite frankly, I think it’s pretty awesome. When I meet people who say they don’t read it’s like it doesn’t compute for me. I just don’t understand at all. Reading is essential to me. In fact, I would give up cooking and baking and eat pre-packaged meals for the rest of my life before I would ever give up reading. Take a moment to ponder that…yeah.

So anyway, my cousin Cress who is a librarian told me about this website called Riffle last year sometime and I’ve decided I want to make it a thing. I want people to like it. I want it to be popular. I want it to be the Facebook/Twitter for nerds like me. So, calling all nerds – go to Riffle, sign up, and follow me and a bunch of other cool people who love to read. I’m still learning how to use it but as far as I can tell it’s an easy way to keep track of books you’ve read, find new cool books to add to your must-read list, and see what other people think about the books you’re currently reading. Search for Maggie Hanson and you’ll find me there, making lists of The Best Books I Read in 2013 and Books to Read in 2014 and fun stuff like that. Do it, do it! You know you want to….

I’m also reading this:

PFMcoverThis lady is great. She’s been featured on NPR a lot and I’ve read two of her other books (Gulp & Bonk) and I love her comedic style. A comedy/science writer, who knew those existed?

So what’s everyone else reading? I’m always up for adding things to my 2014 list 🙂

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Baking with Julia – Gingersnaps

IMG_4576True confessions: I really, 100% to the depths of my soul, hate making cutout cookies. I always start out with the best intentions and visions of making beautiful snowflakes or something like that and after rolling out just one measly sheet I am cursing anything I can think of and berating myself for getting into this kind of project yet again. One time I actually called a friend and asked her to yell at me a little for motivation because I was seriously considering giving up and just throwing the dough away even though I had planned on making several batches and giving them as gifts to co-workers and friends. Luckily she is well-versed in both tough tough love and endearing bitchiness and she got my butt in gear. So the fact that I made these into slice and bake cookies and then did the lazy drizzle instead of actually frosting them should surprise no one.

Gingersnaps are meant to be little snack cookies that you eat on your break with your afternoon tea anyway. They’re not trying to impress anyone. I did give them a little pop of sparkle with some white sanding sugar but it’s really not necessary. They’re just happy to be nominated thank you, they know they’re not winning any awards in the looks department. But they do take the cake in the taste and texture category for sure! They are perfectly crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside just like a gingersnap should be. Actually there has been some debate that a gingersnap should be more “snappy” but I preferred the texture of these guys. So yeah, I hate making cutout cookies and I clearly don’t know squat about a real gingersnap but I loved these little babies and I hope you will too.

Gingersnaps

(adapted from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan)

1/4 cup sugar

3 T unsulfured molasses

2 T unsalted butter, at room temp

1/8 t ginger

1/8 t cinnamon

1/8 t baking soda

1/8 t salt

1 1/2 T water

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

(for the powdered sugar glaze)

1/2 cup powdered sugar

water

Put the sugar, molasses, butter, spices, baking soda, & salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on medium speed to cream the ingredients together, about 2 minutes. Add the water and flour and mix on low just until the dough comes together.

Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and then carefully mold it into a log shape. The dough is very wet so this is a little tricky but it can be done. Take a cardboard paper towel tube and slip the plastic wrapper log inside to help it keep the shape, then place it in the refrigerator for at least an hour or even overnight. About an hour before you want to slice and bake the cookies, place the log (still in it’s paper towel tube) in the freezer to help it firm up even more.

Preheat the oven to 325 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the freezer, unwrap it, and moving quickly use your sharpest knife to cut the log into 1/4″ slices. Arrange the slices on the baking sheets (these don’t spread much so you only need about an inch of space in between) and bake for about 11 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through the baking time. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the pans before removing them to a cooling rack.

While the cookies are cooling, put about 1/2 cup of powdered sugar into a small bowl and drizzle water into the sugar while stirring it until you have a nice little glaze going on. When the cookies are completely cool, use a spoon to drizzle the powdered sugar glaze artfully onto your little gingersnaps. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar if desired. Enjoy!

IMG_4574

The Best Tuna Salad Ever

IMG_4547First things first – I’m kind of embarrassed to even write this post. Tuna salad is a weird thing to get excited about. It’s one of those foods that’s soooooooooo good, yet makes you feel so strange about loving. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t smell great. Any time you eat tuna in your home, you must take out the trash right after because whatever receptacle housed that fish is never going to not smell fishy, no matter how much rinsing you do. Plus onions are involved so you do the math – stinky fish + stinky onions = don’t go near anyone for a little while after you eat this unless they too have enjoyed an illicit & smelly snack.

Well now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about why I love this so very, very much. For one thing, there’s no celery. Why has celery been invited to all the salad parties in like the last 100 years? You can’t get tuna, chicken, egg. or potato salad without that stringy little weed mucking up the works to save your life usually! If you can’t tell, I kinda hate celery. Which is why I was so delighted to discover that this tuna salad has none of that horrible substance and instead has dried cranberries which I absolutely love. Whoever thought of this combination is a genius. I know I never would have on my own. So now it’s time to own up – I have been trying to re-create the Whole Foods Cranberry Tuna Salad in my own kitchen for the last three years and I think I’ve pretty much gotten it down pat. For a little backstory, I discovered the salad when I was driving past a Whole Foods nearly every day to visit a family member who was in the hospital. It was kind of a trying time and I used to stop at Whole Foods to pick up something to eat that wasn’t made in the hospital while we hung out there every night. This salad and a crusty roll from the bakery department were my go-to meal and brought a little happiness (for me at least) to a pretty dark time.

This is mainly going to be a list of ingredients because you can make this salad for just you or you can make a big-ass bowl of it to last all week for lunches and snacks. Yummmmmmm

– Packaged Yellowfin tuna (I buy the pouches but cans are fine too)

– finely diced yellow onion

– dried cranberries

– lemon juice

– finely chopped Italian parsley

– honey

– mayo

– garlic powder

– salt & pepper

– distilled white vinegar

Okay so I know you’re thinking “Honey? WTF?” but just trust me and put about a tablespoon in there. Same goes for the vinegar and lemon juice since you only need a little to provide that acidic bite that you’re after. Like I said, the proportions are really up to you based on how much you need but less is more when it comes to the liquids. A runny tuna salad is a terrible tuna salad they always say. Well maybe they don’t, but they should. Just taste as you go and experiment and I swear, this will be the best tuna salad of your whole stinkin’ life! Get yourself a crusty roll (or if you really want to be lazy just a few slices of plain ol’ bread) and make yourself a sandwich. If you’re feeling really ambitious, make these rolls and then eat your homemade tuna salad on them. Go ahead, feel smug. You earned it.