It's been awhile, dear reader. I know that, you know that, and while I'm ashamed to admit the way that I let 2016 get away from me, let's be real: it wasn't a great year for most of the world. On a personal level, I travelled more than I ever have in a single 12 month period (14 trips, 10 of them outside Scotland!), I quit a job that was leading nowhere and acquired a job in my field that I love (all within a week of each other!), and I planned & executed a week-long major event at my workplace- in fun news, I read more books for pleasure in 2016 than I think I have since high school (part of this was an escapism urge, and maybe better used elsewhere); Judson got his UK driver's license (a process that took him two years because of all the hoops we have to jump through) and a much-deserved promotion along with lucrative and fun freelance design gigs, and we got to see friends from all over the world here in Edinburgh.
So maybe that explains a little of why I was in and out of here all throughout last year. I can't claim burnout on something I had done for only a year previously, but starting a new job really took so. much. energy. and then I got used to being able to come home after a long day and relax with a book instead of trying to cook/photograph/edit/write/post and it was a nice change of pace. Previously, throughout the entirety of my adult life I've almost always been looking for a job, so now that I have a job I like, it was a pleasing change of events to not have anything I had to be doing. So with my birthday and the holiday season on the horizon in early November, I resolved to get back in the saddle and start cooking again. In fact, I had a whole celebratory post written about my birthday and the US election and how excited I was about both (I made tiny sugar cookies in the shapes of gingerbread ladies on election day, and I was STOKED). But then when I awoke to the news the next morning, my spirits were crushed and November became more about surviving than it was about writing.
On the bright side, these months off have allowed me to experiment more with the things I love to cook, and Judson and I have never eaten better. From duck & sweet potato rosti to brown butter kimchi ramen, from my (other) grandmother's cinnamon rolls and egg nog to the booziest cranberry sauce I ever accidentally made, it's been a good time to be a resident of the Cowan house.
But I've missed cooking these weird recipes and I've missed Eleanor. I miss engaging with the past in this way and I miss, honestly, the reminder that the world spins madly on. The reminder that other people (other women) have been through good times and bad for eons before me and that we'll continue to survive no matter what the future holds.
So here's a simple recipe for getting back in the saddle. Maybe you've never been much of a 'homemade' type person, maybe you hate cooking, maybe you're trying to cut out packaged foods in the new year, or maybe, like me, the kitchen is an old friend you've just been treating badly for the last few months. Here's a recipe that takes only a few minutes to whip up but will leave you pleased with your efforts and without too many dishes to clean, and your friends will think it's fab that you made them a home-baked dessert... if you decide to share.
4 spoons out of five. A blondie with dark chocolate chips-- what's not to love?
Toll House Marble Squares
Heat oven to 190C/375F and grease 13x9-inch pan.
Cream butter, sugars and vanilla thoroughly.
Beat in egg.
Blend in flour, baking soda and salt, mixing just until combined.
Stir in walnuts, then spread in prepared pan.
Sprinkle chocolate chips over the mixture, then place in oven for 2 minutes.
Remove from oven and run a knife or a wooden pick through the chocolate chips to marbleise the dough.
Return to oven and bake 10 minutes until a pick inserted in the middle comes out with only a few sticky crumbs.
Yields 2 dozen bars.
½ c butter, softened
¼ c + 2 tbsp sugar
¼ c + 2 tbsp brown sugar, packed
½ tsp vanilla
1 c flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ c walnuts, chopped coarsely
6 oz chocolate chips (semi-sweet)