Pumpkin Cookies: The Taste of Someone Else’s Home

Pumpkin Cookies: The Taste of Someone Else’s Home

My parents don’t cook with pumpkin.

My mom only makes one cookie recipe.

That recipe is for chocolate chip cookies.

I don’t know the recipe because she memorized it, and never remembers to write it down.

I haven’t made my mom’s cookies since I lived within shouting distance of her.

So, I make other cookies. Lots of cookies. Lots of different kinds of cookies. Recently, I made these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and a guest could not stop telling me how they were a taste of home. While his mother doesn’t bake much now, she used to make them as a treat for her kids when they were young.

So, while I can’t have a taste of home without going there, I’m glad to try someone else’s home instead. Though really, I’d rather have my mom’s chocolate chip cookies.

Autumn Cookies, or De-Martha’d Double-Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

Autumn Cookies, or De-Martha’d Double-Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

The air has gone crisp. Yellow leaves have blown into my bedroom – or perhaps traveled in on rain boots. The cranberries have arrived at Trader Joe’s! This can mean only one thing: autumn is here.

Cookies are always on tap in my kitchen. And there are no cookies like autumn cookies. But gingersnaps, pfeffernusse, and mint chocolate are de regueur. For this autumn, I wanted something special. Something that makes use of those fresh cranberries in the store. So I hit google and discovered that Martha Stewart authored a double-chocolate cranberry cookie. With Martha, you can’t go wrong, so I started in on the recipe. Except she called for sweetened dried cranberries, and I wanted tart fresh ones. She requires bittersweet chocolate, and I don’t have that on hand. And frankly, she uses way more butter than I can stomach.

Join me on the dark side of Martha, or use the presumably-perfect Martha version. Either way, happy autumn!


Double-Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted in a microwave

1 cup 2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled) 

3 tbsp unsweetened dark cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt sprinkle salt, if you want

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature margarine, at whatever temperature 

little less than 3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup dried cranberries about 1 cup fresh cranberries, mashed in a food processor

Cream margarine and sugars; add eggs and vanilla. Stir in melted chocolate and canberries. Mix together dry ingredients and stir into creamed mixture. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes.

Autumn Cookies and Apple Spice Loaf, at your service
Brownie Fail, or: Cake

Brownie Fail, or: Cake

Objectively speaking, I cannot make brownies. It doesn’t matter which recipe I use or steps I take, they all come out somewhat awful. Until now, I thought I was alone – but I am not. A friend has fallen into the same problem. Her solution though, isn’t to stay away from brownies. It’s to remake them in her own image.

Here is the original and for those who can’t make brownies:

double the water

double the baking soda

and, from the ashes of failed brownies, you have a cake that was waiting to be born.

They May Not Taste Like It, But They’re Pesachdik

They May Not Taste Like It, But They’re Pesachdik

My sister is many things.

She’s a clear communicator. See below if you don’t believe me:

We need to make these next year, they don’t taste pesadik.

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup cake meal
1/4 cup potato starch
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2/3 cup oil
3/4 bag of chocolate chips
Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 250 F for 30-35 minutes
Makes 30 cookies
She is also a truth-telller.
Chag samach!
How to Celebrate a National Holiday

How to Celebrate a National Holiday

Happy National Chocolate Milkshake Day!

Learn about the medicinal value of milkshakes from one of Pittsburgh’s finest milkshake shops.

And while you’re doing that, make sure you’re having a milkshake of your own. It’ll keep you strong.

Chocolate Milkshake

1 c milk

1 to 2 scoops ice cream

2 tbsp chocolate syrup [more to taste]


1 banana

chocolate chips

Put it all in the blender, and blend. My mother taught me that there is only one way to drink a milkshake: in a giant cup, with a straw. Any other way is just not in the spirit of a national celebration. And a national celebration is what this is.

California Grapefruit Cookies

California Grapefruit Cookies

I was invited to two parties on my birthday; neither was for me.

The morning was set to start with a bridal shower. I declined.

The nighttime engagement party was supposed to cap off the day. I intended to decline, but something got the better of me.  Rather, someone got the better of me. The hostess asked if I could bring someone sweet with me to the party. When I wavered, she told me that I should bring any sort of baked good at all, because everything I bake is great. I laughed. She didn’t.

She bribed me with flattery, and I caved like a fallen souffle. Having agreed to bake, I wanted to make something right for the occasion. Cookies were the obvious choice, since they’re perfect for parties – no need for utensils or being seated. But what kind of cookies would be appropriate for the Californian bride? Ones that had a zest for life, sweet, and were unexpected.

Grapefruit Cookies
1 c unsalted margarine
2.5 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1.5 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp baking powder
4.5 cups flour
zest of two grapefruitsCream the margarine and sugars to a consistency of wet sand, then beat in eggs, vanilla, and zest. Combine all other dry ingredients, then add slowly to the creamed mixture. Drop cookies onto cookiesheets lined with parchment paper or oiled foil. Bake at 375 F for about 10 minutes.

Once the cookies have cooled, add Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
juice of 2 to 3 grapefruit segments (1 tbsp)
mix together. drizzle over cookies.
and if you’re me and making this for an engagement party, put sprinkles in the glaze before you begin the drizzling.
Perfect for a Californian.


A friend and I were planning to dine with a pastry chef – someone who whips up a batch of delicate French macarons when they have a spare ten minutes. My friend declined to have anything to do with dessert. I phoo-phooed her, and tried to bolster her confidence.

Me: SHOW NO FEAR. That’s how I handle myself around dogs with large teeth. You just keep repeating to yourself: I HAVE NO FEAR OF DOGS. I HAVE NO FEAR OF DOGS. I HAVE NO FEAR OF DOGS. If the dog is especially frightening, I’ll inform it, out loud, that I’m not afraid. Once informed, they tend to lose interest in biting off my face, and they wander away.

Friend: That mantra doesn’t work when you’re an amateur making dessert for a pastry chef. 

Dogs don’t judge you like pastry chefs do. 

So dessert is up to me. In this precarious situation, I turn to a tried and true recipe. Tried and true for Special Correspondent Ellen, that is. The fact that I tried it and failed doesn’t bother me in the least. Say it with me: I HAVE NO FEAR OF THE PASTRY CHEFS.

Summer Cookies

Summer Cookies

It was hot and I wanted a cookie. A cookie that would help me to cool down. A summer cookie.

I asked Google to help. Google gave me sugar cookies dyed in shades of neon.

So I went back to the drawing board. I flipped through my recipes – the only cold cookie recipe I had on hand is a refrigerated oatmeal blob, held together by chocolate. I looked at my cookbooks, and they looked back at me. Then I contemplated, and considered what ingredients would be refreshing.

Lemon. Mint. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.

I thought I was on to something, but needed independent confirmation. Special Correspondent Ellen thought it sounded good, though she believed sugar cookies with mint icing would be best. I was leaning toward lemon cookies with chunks of mint. Ayelet broke the tie by siding with me, though she did recommend attempting both.

One thing at a time. I tried my version first, and it hit the spot. The best part of this experiement is that next time I get a craving for summer cookies, Google won’t gave a chance to let me down. Ellen’s Summer Cookies are on my to-do list.

Lemon, Mints, COOKIE.
Lemon, Mints, COOKIE.

My Summer Cookies

1 stick margarine

1 1/2 c sugar

3 eggs

1 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 c apple sauce [this replaces margarine and an egg I decided were excessive. Quantities are variable.]

3 1/2 c flour

1 tbsp baking powder

zest from 2 lemons

10 oz of peppermint candies, hammered to smithereens

Combine margarine and sugar. Add in eggs, lemon juice, apple sauce, and lemon zest. Stir in flour and baking powder together. Sprinkle in crushed mint  candies and mix until combined. Bake at 375 for 10 – 15 minutes. Makes 3 to 5 dozen.

To make them even more summery – freeze. While you’re at it, take some ice cubes from the fridge and pour yourself a glass of water. Hydrate and enjoy.