Peanut butter cookies, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and why cookie exchanges are the best

Before you even consider the fact that I stuffed my face yesterday with all manner of wonderful foods, I’ve been in a really, really sugar-focused mood lately. Like, give me cookies or give me death! (Although, to be honest, I’d also accept brownies.) And since one of my co-workers was celebrating the big 4-0 and specifically requested peanut butter cookies, I decided to double the recipe and treat myself.

The recipe that I’ve used for ages, from Land o’ Lakes, is great, but since aging into the next phase of my metabolism, I’ve modified it to include a bit of whole wheat pastry flour (health, am I right?). Then, I threw some chocolate ganache on it for kicks. And elegance. You know what I mean. Anyway, peanut butter cookies!

I finally finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks while I was eating raw cookie dough, and it was quite a read. So emotional, informative, and well-written. Check out the review, grab another cookie, and get reading.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and peanut butter cookies

And speaking of cookies, am I the only one interested in doing an old-fashioned cookie exchange? You know, the ones where everyone brings a bunch of cookies and then you take home a nice box of every kind of cookie you can imagine. Does this not sound like best party you’d ever go to? Okay, so let me know if you want in. I’m doing two this year: one in Chicago and one around the country. One in person, one not. YOU CAN PARTICIPATE NO MATTER WHAT. It’s amazing.

Donut cake, Broken Monsters, and what you should pay attention to this weekend

Folks, it is officially fall in Chicago. I will pause here for your appreciative applause.


And now, I present you with the ultimate guide for the first fall weekend in the Windy City, where just 48 hours ago, it was something like 85 degrees. I don’t know; I just live here.

First up: make a donut cake that pairs perfectly with spiked, warm cider, hot coffee, or some other warm and likely alcoholic beverage. It’s baked in a bundt tin, which I am usually strongly opposed to, but in this case, I’m really okay with. It’s full of nutmeg and cinnamon and buttermilk, and you’ll probably have no interest in leftovers, but just in case you do, they’re amazing and even more donut-y than I thought was possible. Y. u. m.

Second: read a spooky book about a supernatural murder mystery. Wow, you say, that sounds so specific. However will I find a book that fulfills those criteria? Oh, honey. I got you. Click here to read the review of Broken Monsters, and then realize that it’s the perfect book for this weekend.

Donut Cake and Broken Monsters

Lastly: pay attention to at least two things this weekend. One is, appropriately, also donut (or, in this case, doughnut) content. My friend from my high school journalism days has started a doughnut bakery in Pittsburgh called Fight Sized Doughnuts. If you live in Pittsburgh, as I know some of you do, run, don’t walk, to his website and give him a follow on Instagram. Tasty things await you.

You should also pay attention to Samin Nosrat (aka my girl Samin, my goddess of cooking, my imaginary best friend who I chat with even though she’s not there in the kitchen) and her brand-new Netflix show Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, which is based on her most illustrious cookbook that has been reviewed right here on Page & Plate. I started the first episode last night, and honestly, I had to stop because it was just way too exciting and wonderful and I started crying when she made pesto with a nonna.

Love War Stories, Apricot Almond Muffins, and Impending Seasonal Changes

I can't help but feel like summer is on a timer here. I mean sure, I'm as ready as anyone else to leave these 95-degree, 110% humidity-filled days behind, but am I the only one who starts to panic just a little when contemplating snow?

The good news is that not only do we have some time before boots and parkas rule the wardrobe, but the time in between now and then, popularly known as fall, is the best time to be a human who eats. Need proof? Get thee to a farmers' market and take in all of the beautiful produce that you thought was done growing. And if you're anything like me, you'll start to hyperventilate about all of the amazing food you want to cook with this fresh produce and how little time you have to cook it. My advice: don't worry. Take a deep breath. Then, go talk to your farmer and order in bulk. I came home last weekend with 20 pounds of tomatoes and 10 pounds of peaches from Mick Klug farm, and I couldn't be happier. 

Apricot Almond Muffins and Love War Stories

I spent the morning canning plain tomatoes, roasted tomatoes for pizza and pasta, and making crazy salsa that I promise I will post the recipe for, and I couldn't be happier. I feel a little less terrified at the prospect of winter, especially because I just made these gorgeous apricot almond muffins, which would be just as delicious with dried apricots. Probably. And they would definitely still match with Love War Stories by Ivelisse Rodriguez, which rocked my world. 

TLDR enjoy summer while it lasts, steal a little summer for your winter, and read the books I tell you to read. Cool. Happy Sunday eve!

Feminist Press provided a copy of Love War Stories to Page & Plate for the purpose of this independent review. 

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe, Six Four, and Other Important Life Updates

As I think we all know, I have some obsessive tendencies when it comes to cooking. When I get into cooking or eating something, I get REALLY into it, and I have been known, occasionally, every so often, to go a tiny bit overboard. Most recently, I double whammied and obsessed over chocolate chip cookies and true crime.

My (most recent) deep dive into true crime got started with a crash course on the podcast My Favorite Murder. If you're not familiar and even the tiniest bit into true crime, run, don't walk. I know I'm a little late to the game here, but trust me, this is definitely a case of the better late than never. But alas, this blog isn't about podcasts, it's about books, and so, with MFM playing in my ears, I turned to my bookshelves for a true crime novel I had yet to read. 

I found it in Six Four, which won the Best Japanese Crime Fiction of the Year in 2003. While I thought it leaned a little more towards a political drama than crime fiction, it satisfied my craving for a gritty police novel with mystery, intrigue, and, yes, crime. I'm betting it'll someday become an HBO mini-series starring lots of cigarettes. You heard it here first. 

Six Four and Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Simultaneously, I was also on the quest for the ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe. And, with the help of my co-workers, who patiently taste-tested and gave feedback during my last week at work, I found it. This is a recipe worth memorizing, if I do say so myself. 

If you read that last paragraph carefully, you'll notice that I managed to sneak in a life update: I am officially two weeks into a brand new position about which I'm really excited. As of late July, I'm the Director of Admissions and Community Outreach at the GCE Lab School in Lincoln Park, Chicago. It's been a wild transition, which I'll use as a great excuse for not having posted in a while, and I'm just really, really pumped to be a part of this great new community of learners. If you're in Chicago, or know someone who is, get in touch and let me talk your ear off about this amazing school. 

I think that's it for now. More obsessions and updates to come. PEACE, LOVE, COOKIES.

Happy Cake Day: I Was Told There'd Be Cake and Blueberry Citrus Cake

If it wasn't already clear to you, I have a cake problem. I LOVE baking cakes (sometimes, when the time is right, and when the mood strikes me), but I am not the hugest cake fan. I will stare at a cake all day. I will watch videos of a cake being iced until my eyes roll back in my head and pop out of my skull. But give me an entire cake, and I'll make it through a bite or two before asking for a bag of chips.

I consider this lack of passionate love for cake to be one of my greatest character weaknesses, and I understand if this makes you as a reader suspicious of my validity as a baker. (Well, kind of.) BUT, to you skeptics, I offer this short, cake-related rebuttal: Today's blueberry citrus cake has not only grown on me in the last 48 hours, but made a huge splash at the office potluck that I had to bring it back in after I took it home because people FREAKED OUT. You know who you are. 

Just look at that beauty. It's no wonder people called it crack cake and made me sign a blood oath to bake it at their wedding. So cake lover or not, get your butt over to that recipe and whip up the cake critics are describing as "the best cake I've ever had" and "no, seriously, did you put cocaine in it?" Answer: no. I'm not that fun.

Speaking of fun though, if you read one book this week, please have it be I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley. I think you'll snort with laughter and really enjoy it, but even if you don't, she might catch wind of the buzz and want to be my friend, which would really mean a lot to me. Thanks in advance.

I Was Told There'd Be Cake and Blueberry Citrus Cake

Just so much butter: summer berry galette and Butter: A Rich History

Today's post is all about my favorite ingredient: butter. 

I love butter. Not margarine. Not Oleo. Butter. Why do you think we went to Ireland? The butter. Why do you think I go to the store so often? Butter. Why do you think I force myself to run as often as I do? You guessed it: butter (also, bread, but that's for another post). I feel almost as passionate about butter as I do about salt, and for those of you who know me, you know what a statement that is for me to make. 

For Christmas, Colin bought my mom a book called Butter: A Rich History, and I immediately began plotting to steal it from her at the first chance I got. And then, last time I was home, I did, even though she wasn't finished reading it. Mom, if you're reading this, don't worry, I'll deliver it the next time I see you and then we can talk about butter. ANYWAY, this gem of a book was every bit as buttery, wonderful, and smart as I thought it would be. Case closed.

Butter: A Rich History and Summer Berry Galette

Like any good book about butter, cooking, or an ingredient, this one has a hefty recipe section at the back, filled with recipes that highlight and illustrate the magical properties of butter. I knew that if I didn't blog this book with a recipe involving at least a stick of butter, there would be questions about my integrity as a blogger, so here we are: more galette. This time, with a vodka-y riff on Alison Roman's pie crust recipe and summer berries, it's a summery sister to our savory friend from this winter. And it's good. Real good. So run off, grab some berries, and rejoice in butter. Which is how I'm going to sign off every post from now on.

Cake Pops, Ready Player One, and Good Things from Good Things

Today's theme is how good things that come from other good things. Does that make sense? In other words, when you start with something good (like this cake) and then you make something out of it, it is also good (cake pops).

I am one of those people who staunchly believes that you should read the book before you see the movie. With the exception of The Princess Diaries and Game of Thrones (unpopular but certain opinion), I've never seen a movie adaptation of the book that was so much better than the book that it blew me away. And this post isn't going to change that, so if you're looking for an opportunity to tell me you told me so, head somewhere else. 

Ready Player One and Cake Pops

Colin and I saw Ready Player One the weekend we got back from Ireland at the tremendously charming Brew & View in the Vic Theater. I had not read the book, despite his numerous suggestions that I read the book, and I wasn't expecting much from the movie, but I ended up getting super into it. Then I read the book, and I was like "wow, no wonder that movie was so good! It came from such a good book! This will make a great blog post, and also the colors of the cake pops match perfectly with the cover! Fate!"

The end.

Which is more addicting: this tahini tea cake or Idiophone by Amy Fusselman?

The title of this blog post is a trick question because I honestly cannot figure out the answer. HAH. Got you! Got me? AH. I don't know! Which, by the way, is a great problem to have. And it means you should really bake this tea cake and pre-order this book

 WHAT A POWER COUPLE. 

WHAT A POWER COUPLE. 

I mean, Idiophone (out in July from Coffeehouse Press!) was SO unexpected and wonderfully weird and artsy that I expected not to like it, but I actually REALLY loved it. I couldn't put it down. I finished it in about an hour. No, it's not super long, but still. An hour. On the train! While people were talking and being generally distracted. I think that really says something. 

And this bread. Cake. Whatever. Man. I took a bite and was underwhelmed. Then I took another one, and I was like "wow, this isn't nearly as bad as that first bite," and now here I am like half a loaf later, and I don't know if I like it, but I can't stop eating it and I definitely haven't brought any to work to share. I don't know, you guys! Help! Do I hate it? Do I love it? Am I just really, really selfish? Help a blogger out, make the cake, and leave a comment with your verdict.

Coffee House Press provided a copy of Idiophone to Page & Plate, LLC for the purposes of this independent review.

Apricot Ginger Cake and The Reservoir Tapes

This week I did two things with incredibly impressive speed: bake a SUCCESSFUL and non-traumatic cake and breeze through Jon McGregor's upcoming book, The Reservoir Tapes.

The Reservoir Tapes and Apricot Ginger Cake

I was pretty pleased with myself -- not going to lie, mostly because I baked a cake without crying into the icing. As you may recall from my birthday cake, layer cakes are ... iffy at best for me for no other reason than I struggle with patience. It's fine. I'm learning. BUT with this cake, it went so smoothly I almost wondered if my guardian baking angel was like "GIRL, ENOUGH ALREADY" and swooped down to ice it for me. I think it was helpful for me to have company while baking / assembling in the form of Cait, the face of a fabulous style blog and Oeil Jewelry. Whatever the case, this cake turned out to be the best I've ever made, so go run and get the recipe. Another bonus, by the way? The ginger liqueur that gives this cake a kick of flavor was made by Chicago's own Koval Distillery. Win-win-win-win-cake.

I was surprised at how fast I made it through The Reservoir Tapes because I've been reading a lot of dark thrillers lately and thought I was going to take a bit of a break. After I opened the package from Catapult Books, I went to put this book on the bookshelf, looked up, and realized I had gotten halfway through. Yep. That good. Check out the review, then head over to pre-order it from Catapult.

Note: Catapult Books provided a pre-release copy of The Reservoir Tapes to Page & Plate for the purposes of this independent review.

Cake Intervention Sunday

Hi, it's me, your friendly neighborhood cake icing video addict! And Instagram cake stalker. And just like ... generally very into cake human being. Am I the only one with major FOMO (fear of missing out, it was a thing like three years ago, people) from that GORGEOUS WEDDING CAKE? I'm sorry that I just linked to People, but god, THAT CAKE. I mean, yeah, so happy for them, whatever, but I want. that. cake. I don't even like lemon flavored things but LOOK AT IT. I need cake. Now. Or, in Michael Scott-isms:

So here I am, on a Sunday, just a blogger, laying on my couch, putting some cake recipes together and asking an audience to bake them. (Did you guys know that quote I just totally ripped off in the worst way was from Notting Hill? I would've put money on it being from Say Anything. I have never seen either of these movies.) 

Go forth and eat. some. cake. 

And finally, lest we forget, the ultimate chocolate cake with mocha mascarpone icing: CLOSE CALL BIRTHDAY CAKE

Coconut Mango Sorbet, Annihilation, and Independent Bookstore Day

It's here. The moment you've been waiting for all winter. IT'S INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE DAY. Oh, wait, did you think I meant spring? I mean, yes. That is also finally here, and if you think there wasn't a shandy in my hand the moment the temperature broke 50, you're sadly mistaken. (But no, I didn't drink it because orange juice is gross and that's what I keep Colin around for.)

Anyway, it cannot be a coincidence that Independent Bookstore Day falls on the same weekend as the first actual spring weather in Chicago because the excitement is too real for both of these things. First, let's talk about books. Then we can talk about spring eats.

Coconut Mango Sorbet and Annihilation from Unabridged Bookstore

Independent Bookstore Day is near and dear to my heart, and not just because it makes me feel less guilty about my bank statements, although TRUE. I love IBD (if I may) because I love the fact that the whole country (world? universe? I don't know the scale here...) comes together to celebrate resilient underdogs who are the cornerstones of many a community. Today's example is Unabridged Bookstore in Lakeview (one of my new haunts following the move). On Saturday, they're having a storewide 10% off sale, so you should take IBD as the perfect opportunity to check them out if you haven't already, and feel free to buy me a book! I'm all about that spaving life. (Also where I nabbed today's book, Annihilation, from the beautiful edition of the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer, who I'm seeing on Friday!)

When you get home with your haul, go ahead and treat yourself to some coconut mango sorbet made with instructions from the video below to celebrate the almost-dawn of summer. The best part is the cinnamon chocolate chips if you ask me. Which you did. Because you're reading my blog. So, yeah.

Nutella Banana Bread, Friendship Bread, and Building Foundations

My understanding of buildings, construction, and even sandcastles is limited at best, but I've had a hand in too many failed cakes not to understand the importance of a solid foundation. (See the near disaster that was my birthday cake this year as exhibit one.) But today, we're all about those solid foundations.

 Just so much drool.

Just so much drool.

The recipe of the day is an updated take on Mammaw's classic, constant banana bread recipe: Nutella banana bread. DROOL FACE EMOJI. Also, real talk: Mammaw is a goddess, and if you had tried to tell me that this recipe could be improved simply by adding such an extra, millennial ingredient, I would have slapped you. But having eaten probably about half of this loaf since it came out of the oven, my stance has softened. Do stances soften? I don't even know, but the point stands: there's nothing wrong with building on the solid foundation of a classic recipe to make a sexy, updated fave.

I actually got the idea from today's book, Friendship Bread by Darien Gee. In the book, her characters use the original recipes to make a bunch of crazy loaves, and I was very about it. I was also about how everything really worked out for everyone in a way that was so relieving it was almost shocking. (I'm experiencing Game of Thrones again as Colin watches for the first time, and it's traumatizing me.) Check out the review, and let me know what you think! 

The moral of today's post is that as long as you have a good foundation, you can add Nutella for anything. Right? Right.

Page & Plate Note: Darien Gee provided a copy of Friendship Bread to me for the purposes of this independently written review. The views expressed here are mine and mine alone. Want to see your name and book here? Email me at pageandplateblog@gmail.com to talk shop!

Olive Oil Plum Cake, My Life in France, and Other Things to Bask In

Today's post is full of things so good they almost make me tear up because they're just so satisfying and wonderful. I realize that might sound crazy, but hear me out: olive oil plum cake and My Life in France.

 I mean, just. Wow.

I mean, just. Wow.

Julia Child is a true gem (which Colin says is something that nobody my age says anymore), and there is no greater proof of than this book. The only reason it took me more than a day to get through was because at some points I would become so emotionally involved with how desperately I wanted to be learning about food in France that my heart would start to physically ache and my eyes would tear up on their own accord. Then you have this cake, and when it's warm and right out of the oven, the plums are so soft and steamy that they're basically jam, and you take a bite and it's lemon-y (thanks to Old Town Oil), moist, and light, and everything is beautiful. (Oh, and also there is a video.)

I'm telling you guys. Recipe for a perfect Sunday right there.  

Speaking of perfect Sundays, last Sunday, I saw my fellow CMU graduate, Haley, who's working on a great project called Tense Humanity which will consist of "doodles, illustrator scribblings, and words re: tech, design, systems thinking, and their many relations." Check it out on Instagram or on Medium , and enjoy her beautiful brain!

Page & Plate Note: Old Town Oil gave me a sampler pack of olive oil and vinegar to use for recipe testing and the purposes of this review. Thanks, Old Town Oil!

Macarons, Infinite Jest, and Other Things TBD

I am about to make a post about a recipe I haven't yet perfected and a book I haven't finished. While some of you might be scratching your heads or picking up your phone to furiously text me about the indignity of it all, please, allow me to explain. 

macarons and infinite jest.JPG

Reading and cooking are alike in that they are two activities some people consider a chore and others consider a pleasant past time. (Then there are those of us weirdos who consider them plain out fun, but we don't need to go into that right now.) When doing something you love, or even remotely find tolerable, there are going to be times that you don't quite measure up to what you had imagined for yourself. For me, nothing perfectly encapsulates this battle more than Infinite Jest.

I have nothing against this book. I have nothing against David Foster Wallace. In fact, from what I've read of the book, I find it challenging and well-written. But for some reason, I cannot bring myself to chew through this book the way I have with so many others. But that's okay! Because taking my time with this one is fine. I'm allowed to say I'm still reading it, and I'm allowed to take ten years to read it if I want to (but I won't! I swear!). 

The other thing that's okay, as much as it pains me to admit, is that I have not yet made a perfect batch of macarons. I've made three batches that tasted delicious and ranged in looks from passable to plain yuck. Yes, my eye is twitching as I write this.

The point is that life is too short to worry about doing things perfectly and finishing every book you start in three days. Go forth, read what you want, and bake your best life.

Close Call Birthday Cake

For my birthday this year, I was determined to make my own cake. I mean, come on. I'm in the throes of establishing my very own little food blog. What kind of fledgling food blogger would I be if I didn't make my own cake?*

While there was a teensy tiny little meltdown mid-cake assembly that may or may not have been about my turning 24 and still being tragically unable to make and frost a cake successfully, it all turned out okay. The cake was delicious. I ate it every night for a week after. Life went on. @ Colin, you were right.

All of that aside, here is the video that I made of the process (and tears) using the brand new C-stand camera holder thingy! I'm very excited about unveiling yet another platform from which I can shout into the void about food and books, and I am fully appreciative of the fact that the quality of this video reflects that of a beginner. I will get better, I hope. Special shout out to Mackenzie for coming over for dinner and then letting me text her late at night to ask questions about Premiere. Enjoy!

*a sane one

Chocolate Souffle, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, and Spontaneity

A wise woman once said "The best things in life are not planned." That woman was actually a Dove Milk Chocolate Wrapper. Mind. Blown. 

I love planning, as previously discussed, but recently I've been trying to embrace spontaneity more because sometimes,  as many to do lists and meal plans as you make, there are some nights when you really need a chocolate cake and you're going to do anything necessary to make sure that you acquire one. And sometimes, that means realizing you don't have time to make a cake, trudging to the closest World Market after work, buying a mismatched set of ramekins and a bar of dark chocolate, and whipping up chocolate souffles just five minutes before your guest is due for dinner (more on that later -- Friday probs?).

souffle and 12 lives of samuel hawley.jpg

Sometimes it means stopping with a car full of groceries at your favorite neighborhood book store (@ Roscoe Books, lookin' at you) and grabbing The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, which you promised yourself you were going to wait and get out of the library and that you definitely didn't plan on buying. Oops.

"Now, spontaneously hop on over to the review and recipe to get the updated spur of the moment plan for your evening together!" Dove Milk Chocolate Wrapper out.

Harry Potter + Granola Bars = Modern Classics

We are not living in the age of Jane Austen and seven-course dinners on Wednesday. We know that. We are ok with that. In fact, we are great with that. Because what we are living with here is a set of modern classics that mean just as much to us: Harry Potter and granola bars.

harry potter and granola bars.jpg

I'm not going to say much more about these things because I think they speak for themselves. Go forth and enjoy some modern classics.

Chocolate Mousse, Bread, Wine, Chocolate, and Cooking Love

The absolute first thing I did when I moved into the new place was set up the kitchen. This was partially because about 80% of the boxes were filled with kitchen things and thus needed to be unpacked so I could actually get to the other boxes and partially because the kitchen is the center of my home. 

 Pre-demolition

Pre-demolition

No, not literally. It's actually all the way at the back of the house, meaning Daily gets a lot of miles on those paws playing fetch while I'm cooking. But figuratively, yes, dead center, bulls-eye. It's where I cook, think, make grocery lists, talk on the phone, wonder if I've killed my plants, do laundry, creep out the back window to watch the alley like I'm a member of the neighborhood watch -- you get it. If I'm home, I'm probably in the kitchen. 

So after my kitchen was set up, I made the recipe at the center of my love of cooking: my grandmother's recipe for chocolate mousse. This indulgent dessert takes time, a little labor, and lots of whisking, and, as proven time after time, it's totally worth it. Chocolate is my comfort food, and chocolate mousse is the comfort food of all comfort foods (also the cholesterol of all foods forever, but hey, I'll worry about that the next time I bring myself to make a doctor's appointment). 

It seemed appropriate to start off a new house's worth of cooking with one of the first recipes I remember treasuring, and it seemed appropriate that I should pair it with a book about comforting and indulging foods we're drawn to and why we should worry about them: Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love

So here you go, internet. This is my grandma's recipe, and it will knock your socks off. (The book might too, by the way.)

 The mousse goddess herself

The mousse goddess herself