the six month check-up, and toblerone cookies

12 May, 2010 at 6:50 pm 4 comments

For my preschoolers, half birthdays are like a serious deal, so I figured why not for grownups too? Today marks the half-birthday of this blog, and I can’t believe it’s been six months since things got underway! It feels like longer, but somehow has also gone by quickly. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how things are going in the kitchen, and this here half birthday seems a perfect time to do a bit of reflecting, evaluating and, if necessary, redirecting.

Also…toblerone cookies. Need I say more?

{This is a longer post, so if you are just in it for the cookies, I suggest skipping ahead and getting straight to it}

When I started this blog, it was a day off from school and I thought hey, maybe I’ll experiment with wordpress a little bit and see what happens. In trying to scrounge up the bones of a site, I forced myself to focus my food blogging point of view and suddenly realized that I actually liked how things were shaping up enough to want to come back the next day, and later that week, and so on until now!

My initial vision for the site centered on the idea of cooking simple, healthy meals most of the time while allowing for “feasting” once in awhile, whether that be a big dinner party with friends or a simple dessert for two (or these cookies!). As time went by this vision has adapted and expanded to include other goals, some that are documented and others that were less explicit. In a nutshell:

1) Practice eating simply and healthily about 5 nights a week.
2) Once or twice a week, indulge in something more feast-like and really take the time to appreciate it.
3) As my resolution for 2010, cook or do something new in the kitchen each week as part of my kitchen firsts series.
4) Organize and follow through on recipe ideas by menu planning consistently.
5) Post recipes that we have tried and loved that are for the most part healthy, inexpensive, unfussy, and seasonally appropriate.
6) In addition to posting recipes, periodically make upgrades to the readability and features of the blog.
7) Take all my own photographs (with an occasional extra set of hands from Stephen) and use them to highlight ingredients and visually narrate posts, using natural light whenever possible.

So, how’s all that working out? Well, I’d say we’ve had varied results. I’m pretty satisfied with my progress towards goals number 3 and 5– we only share recipes for things that we have tried and enjoyed, and for our sake as well as yours we generally try to keep those recipes as cheap, healthy, and fuss-free as possible. And the kitchen firsts series has been working out very well as far as I’m concerned– it’s proved to be interesting and fun, and I hope that we’ve been successful in keeping them interesting to read, suggesting substitutes for less common ingredients when necessary (i.e. subbing asparagus for fiddleheads in this pasta), and perhaps even encouraging others to try new things in the kitchen.

As for goals 6 and 7, I’m pretty happy there as well. I’ve learned a ton when it comes to using wordpress and the camera over the last few months, and I think that has shown in the evolution of the blog through several visual styles and in my pictures (it’s actually pretty funny to look back at some of my first pictures). We have also updated the about section, added the reading list page, added a few widgets to the sidebar, and done a nice revamp of the recipe index that has hopefully made things much more navigable. That said, I have plenty of things on my to-do list when it comes to blog upgrades and my photography set up, but the important thing as far as I’m concerned is continuing to make steady (if slow) progress toward those goals (like editing some aspects of my CSS, adding a recipe printing feature, acquiring/DIYing some new photography equipment, etc). But in general, I’m happy with what we’ve got so far and ready to plow forward!

That leaves the small issues of goals number 1 (cook healthy and simple most of the time), 2 (feast once in awhile), and 4 (menu plan), which to me are sort of intertwined. In terms of the recipes that we have shared, I think that the balance of everyday to weekend recipes is roughly where I would like it to be, but I’m not sure that that is a reflection of us really sticking to that eating ratio in practice. I try to cook things that are at least in theory blog-worthy, and in that way most of the recipes we try are either relatively healthy or admittedly not, but I don’t pay as much attention as I would like to how many days out of the week we are sticking to the simplicity rule and how many days we are indulging. Also, sometimes I get bogged down by wanting to photograph everything we make so I have the option of posting it, and then find the whole prospect of cooking, photographing and blogging to be too overwhelming, and we end up getting pizza for dinner. Not so friendly on our pocketbooks, and not conducive to sticking to my blog premise. Menu planning, when I bother to do it well, is a great remedy to this, but I am not as consistent with that as I would like. So this is an area for improvement.

All things considered, this is where I would like to be heading as I move into my second half-year:
1) Use menu planning more consistently and effectively (and realistically!) to ensure that we stick more carefully to our cooking and eating manifesto. Also, this should save us money on food (we can buy exactly what we need for the week and not waste or overbuy things, plus we’ll save on pizza bills!), which is always a valid goal.
2) Even when I’m really busy prepping, cooking, and photographing, don’t be too lazy to throw a pot of broccoli to steam, or better yet take advantage of a chance to test out new side dish or salad recipes.
3) Establish a feature to print recipes from my posts.
4) Establish back up plans for nights when I reeeeally don’t want to cook so that we don’t end up eating out– freeze soups, prep things on the weekends?
5) Make a few investments in my blog, such as custom CSS, maybe a non-wordpress domain name, and maybe some photography and lighting equipment since I do most of my cooking at night.

Anybody have any other (constructive) suggestions?

In the meantime, cookies!

These Toblerone Cookies are midnight munchie cookies to the max. They are easy to make and delicious, and at midnight your mind will totally be blown by the melty chocolate-honey-almond-nougat magic of Toblerone. You can whip them up quickly with a few ingredients, and they will impress your friends because they will taste amazing, but really (shh, don’t tell) it’s the toblerone that is doing all that work, not you. The only thing in the way of these being total spur of the moment cookies is the fact that most of you probably don’t keep toblerones in the pantry for emergencies (although I can’t imagine why not), but I swear if you can plan ahead just enough to realize that you will want these cookies soon, and then buy two toblerones next time you’re at the store (they are cheapest at trader joe’s!), you will be sooo glad you did. I know we are usually all about the zen like simplicity of the simple chocolate chip cookie around here, but sometimes a Toblerone can do what chocolate chips can’t.

Most of the recipes I looked at for Toblerone cookies involved creaming softened butter, but when I go looking for a cookie I can make past 10 pm I always get pissed when I’m supposed to have foreseen that we would want cookies enough to soften some butter. So this one is made with melted butter, although if you are together enough to have some softened butter available, that will give you a different texture (personally I like the soft and chewy texture you get from using melted butter, but some people prefer the texture of cookies made with softened butter). Also I cut out the mixer because I didn’t want to get it dirty, and since I didn’t need to cream the butter it was a snap to mix with a wooden spoon instead of a mixer. All in all, cutting corners is encouraged here!

Toblerone Cookies
Adapted from Technicolor Kitchen
Makes 24 cookies

1/2 stick butter, melted
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 Toblerone bars (200 g), roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter (do this in a medium bowl and then you can just make the cookies in it and save a dish) and then stir in the brown sugar with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla, and stir again until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and blend, and then stir in most of your chopped toblerone, reserving a small handful to adorn the tops of the cookies. Make sure to add in the fine chocolate powder left from the chopping, as this will give the cookies sort of a marbly chocolate look and taste awesome.

Drop the dough by rough, mounded tablespoons onto cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart. Press a large chunk (or a few smaller ones) of your reserved toblerone into the top of each cookie, then bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are set, but not browned or firm to the touch. Remove from oven and let them continue to set up for a minute or two on the hot sheet. Then remove, and enjoy with a glass of milk!


Entry filed under: blogging, recipes. Tags: , , , .

kitchen firsts: fresh fava, asparagus and snap pea ragout with pasta kitchen firsts: berry tart with lemon-vanilla pastry cream

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. kremlinmirrors  |  12 May, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    These look delicious.

  • 2. Proriefluoria  |  15 May, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!


    • 3. theweekendgourmande  |  18 May, 2010 at 7:40 pm

      Thank you! I didn’t see your comment for awhile because it got shoved in the spam zone, but I’m happy I found it! I love to hear from the pool of silent readers!

  • 4. Janine  |  27 September, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Just finished baking them. Its a torture, actually! I’m on a diet so I won’t be having any but my family is ‘in love’ with them.
    Thank you sooooo much!


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