Tag Archives: moving

Toll Houses


This month’s Recipe Swap recipe made me smile. It also appealed to my nerdyness with a little geographical and historical context lesson. Christianna at Burwell General Store decided to start the swaps second year with a new cookbook. A group of brave bloggers received this vintage recipe from a very unique cookbook:



        I didn’t do a ton of baking as a kid but I do remember making Toll House chocolate chip cookies with my mom. I know they were Toll House because I remember reading the recipe off of the yellow bag. Though it didn’t happen often, for me cookie baking meant valuable lessons in how to use the stand mixer. It was big, heavy, more than a little scary with all those moving parts, and absolutely essential for perfect cookies.

Until very recently, I didn’t have a mixer of my own. My grandmother’s KitchenAid coming to live with me just happened to correspond with this cookie recipe swap. Creaming butter and sugar has never been so satisfying!
Oh but wait, I didn’t use butter in my Toll House cookies. There are two explanations for this:

  1. I wanted to use a “healthier” fat and just experiment with a different version of the traditional cookie.
  2. I forgot to buy butter.

I’d say the real reason is some combination of the above…but mostly number 2. Butter was on the grocery list. I meant to use it, really I did. I’m just not a big butter user so it didn’t make it into my basket. No problem. I had coconut oil! Since it’s solid at room temperature and has such a lovely flavor, I sometimes substitute coconut oil for butter in my baking. While it’s not the same as something made with butter, I think the flavor and texture of these cookies is outstanding.


        Now comes the part where I explain the houses. You see, my husband is such a sweet guy, he randomly buys me cookie cutters (this just started recently). Last month he added a house-shaped cutter to my small collection. That, of course, made me smile because we were about to buy our first house! We moved in a week or so ago so I’m feeling very homey and grounded nowadays. The house cookie cutter came out as my play on Toll House cookies and to share a little of my new home love with everyone.

I changed a few other things besides the shape and fat in my cookies. I used white chocolate chips in place of regular, vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract, and whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose. This recipe is small – a nice size for a cookie recipe (unless it’s Christmas and you’re trying to feed lots of people). I baked all the dough in a pyrex dish lined with parchment and then cut the houses out of the giant sheet cookie. This worked pretty well but only made 5 houses + trimmings. The house cookies are big. I’d share one with 1 or 2 other people. The trimmings are perfect for snacking on while you’re snapping your cookie pictures or for crumbling over ice cream…yum!




Toll House Houses
Adapted from The Second Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Famous Eating Places

1/2 cup coconut oil
6 tablespoons brown sugar
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon hot water
1 1/8 cup flour, sifted (I used whole wheat pastry)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup nuts, chopped (I used walnuts and pecans)
1/2 cup white chocolate morsels
1 teaspoon vanilla (I used the seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean)
Cranberries would have been a good addition. Add some if you want! They’ll be pretty!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together coconut oil and sugar.
Add egg and vanilla bean scrapings.
Dissolve baking soda in hot water and then add to batter.
Sift flour and salt together and add to mixer a little at a time until completely incorporated.
Stir in nuts and chocolate morsels.
Line a baking dish (mine is 11×7 in. but a bigger one would be better) with parchment paper.
Spread cookie dough over paper to cover the bottom of the dish. The dough will be relatively soft so this is actually pretty easy.
Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from oven and let cool. You can lift the “cookie” out of the dish and onto a wire rack using the parchment paper.
Once the cookie is cooled, cut out house shapes in as efficient a pattern as possible.
Start looking for a giant milk moat for your houses!


Filed under desserts


We have a home – four walls around us and a roof over our heads – a brick fireplace and rooms filled with musty old house smell. Moving, like so many big, exciting things in life, is hard work. Backs hurt at the end of the day a empty living room floor looks like a great place to collapse. We’re mostly moved in now, at least as much as we can be without things like dressers and bookshelves in which to put things away.


Persimmons from a friend were the star of Thanksgiving weekend.

Thanksgiving was the perfect break from schlepping stuff and swabbing floors. Lee and I spent the holiday with my aunt, mom, brother, and brother’s girlfriend at my aunt’s house in Carmel Valley. It was beeeeeautiful, needless to say, and the food was the kind of food you look forward to eating leftover meal after meal. We ate. We talked – caught up on old times and made plans for the future. We ran, hiked, swam, played with dogs, played cribbage, and watched wildlife.


There was a lot of this.


And this.


The table was lovely and the food didn’t even make it in front of the camera. There was turkey, lentil loaf for the vegetarians, roasted root vegetables, endive + persimmon + pomegranate seed salad, mashed potatoes, tabasco + asparagus quinoa, pumpkin cheesecake bars, and apple-pumpkin delight.


In short, I’ve been busy and blogging time has been just out of reach. This week, though, I’ll be back. I can’t miss out on writing about my favorite food season!


Filed under inspiration and musings, other goodies

New and Old

Unpacking in a new place is so much fun. There are more boxes to open and goodies to unwrap than on Christmas morning. The process is even more fun when you packed said boxes yourself several years ago and have not seen the contents since.

I had a few of those to open after Lee and I moved into an apartment in San Francisco last weekend. I also had several boxes of goodies from my grandmother’s kitchen. I packed those last week at my dad’s house after sorting through my grandmother’s things in his basement.

When she moved out of her home and into a small apartment, my grandmother got rid of many things from her kitchen and brought the rest to her new place. There was a logic to what she kept. I remember her showing me a tarnished aspic pan, explaining what an aspic was, and telling me about a recipe for one that she thought I’d like. She also pointed out her funny handleless mugs. They were old ironstone cups, she said, and she liked their everyday utilitarian feel. I found the aspic pan and the cups among my grandmothers things along with much, much more.

I know I’ve mentioned my grandmother here before. Helen was an ice show skater, choreographer, and aspiring chef. For her third career, she started a catering business that grew from her kitchen into it’s own bustling building. Helen’s home cooking had southern roots in her Texas childhood and worldly influences from her extensive ice show travels.


When Lee and I decided to move to the bay area, I knew I could outfit my new kitchen largely from my grandmother’s things. I wasn’t sure what all she’d kept but it had to be good, whatever it was. Unpacking her boxes turned out to be part archaeological venture, part Christmas morning. I ooohed and ahhhhed over everything I unwrapped as my dad explained the history behind whatever it was. Some things were mysterious, like this metal stand that I remember being in her kitchen. What is it for? Where did it come from?


I did a little dance when I pulled this out of a box. I’ve always wanted an espresso maker! Although I’d never seen it before, apparently Helen had a classic Italian stovetop model that she knew was worth keeping.


This ice cream scoop brought another grin to my face. I love ice cream and the only way to scoop it is with a hefty, solid scoop like this one. The metal is cool in my hand and the grip is perfect for digging into icy, creamy goodness.

There is much, much more but I’m saving some goodies for later : )
I think I’ll do a series of posts on artifacts from my grandmother’s kitchen as well as recipes from her GIGANTIC file. Lets look at it as culinary heritage, both familial and cultural.


Filed under inspiration and musings