Snickerdoodle Cookie Recipe

I don’t like cinnamon.   But I like Snickerdoodle cookies.  Somehow, they aren’t very cinnamony even though the cookies are rolled in a cinnamon and sugar mixture before baking.  I tweaked a good recipe for them after we broke down and bought some frozen dough from the Girl Scout on our street who needed to make her quota.   After reading all the chemicals and stabilizers on the ingredient list on the side of the leaden plastic bin the “Gourmet” dough came in, I very quickly got out a mixing bowl.    And so:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and  get out a baking sheet.  I have a teflon baking pan I have been using forever.  The dough is buttery so don’t grease the pan.  It messes up the intended crunchy texture.  Another weirdness is I don’t use a mixer since I hate cleaning the equipment.  I just soften the butter so mixing is easy and use the back of a soup spoon to incorporate the ingredients.   Please, feel free to use a mixer, but  don’t overbeat once the eggs are in.

You’ll need:

1 1/2 cups white sugar or Zukar brand cane sugar, which I use quite a lot

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cream of tartar  (some say it ‘s not necessary but it makes the cookie nice and crumbly)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Some bakers call for 1/4 teaspoon salt. I leave this out as the baking soda is salty enough.

Cream butter and sugar together.  Add the vanilla and eggs.  Mix well. Meanwhile,  measure out the flour into a big enough cup or bowl so you can add the cream of tartar and baking soda.  I run a knife through so the flour has this worked through a bit.   Mix the flour etc.  into the egg, sugar and butter.  It takes some persistence as this is a stiff dough.  You’re then going to make little 1 to 1.5 inch dough balls and roll them in:

2 tablespoons white sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon.  I always end up with extra, so put more sugar in it and you have enough for cinnamon toast the next day.

Note the spacing.

Space them 2 inches apart and bake for 8-10 minutes.  Last time, I set the timer for 8 hours instead of 8 minutes, but luckily a certain smell beckoned me into the kitchen and I got them in time.


Voila, as they say in Paris.  I think Snickerdoodles would sell well in France.  But how to translate the name?

Roast Chicken

Raise your hand if you like dry chicken.  Thought not.   My multi-year quest for moist oven-roasted chicken has been realized  over several attempts in a row. To do this, I did not climb any mountains, fight a lion or find a sword in a lake. Unfortunately.   Still, I  present you with The Grail.    You need a 3-4 pound chicken (ha),  plain Greek yogurt, a head of garlic, and some  kind of steak or poultry rub.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.   If you have a gas oven, even better, but electric will do.    I have done this with grocery store non hormone chickens, organic chickens, sometimes even farmer’s market just-plucked. It always works.    You split the chicken in half along the breastbone to butterfly it. Spread is as flat as you can in a roasting pan.  Then you season it all over with poultry rub (non spicy).  I like Santa Maria rub, lately, a salt and pepper rub sold at Whole Foods.

The chicken is pretty flat. You get even cooking and white meat stays moist.

This time I put about 2o whole cloves of garlic under the skin all over the chicken, with a few under the open cavity.   I don’t always do this.

The flat side of meat pounder opens garlic very easily.

Then I slather the chicken with about a cup of thick plain Greek yogurt.

This is the secret to moistness. High heat melts it into the chicken.

I cook it in the high heat for about 35 minutes, which a restaurant chef told me was TOTALLY WRONG.  You are supposed to slow cook chicken then blast high heat at the end.   Not when the chicken is wearing yogurt sunscreen, it seems.   After 35 minutes (check earlier for brownness as your oven may be “fast” or slow),  you flip the bird with your handy tongs so the white meat does not dry out.    Cook it another ten  minutes at the high heat, then lower it to 325.   This will go another 20 minutes or so, and, in a pinch, you can turn the oven off right now and go get your child from gymnastics, walk the dog, or whatever.  I’ve done it this way, trust me.  There is a lot of residual heat which keeps cooking the chicken.  After 20 minutes (or when you get back), flip the chicken one more time and give it one more blast at 425 for about 5 or 10 minutes.

Yeah, it's a tad too brown for professional purposes. Tasted great, though.

I serve it with brown or white rice, and, often, an iceberg lettuce salad with sliced oranges, dressed with oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.   Pepper on oranges is a surprisingly delicious flavor if you have never had it.

This is a very refreshing salad, a variation on a Sicilian orange, olive oil and pepper salad Grandpa Romano makes.

The Misfit

I went on a top secret Valentine’s gift mission to Santa Monica a couple days ago.   Yes, we have a splendid fancy mall here, and a couple of indy type shops where you can get odd gifts.  There is even an elderly engraver along the main drag,  85 if he is a day, in a tiny store with about 11 products right out of Dickens. The roof leaks when it rains, but buckets are strategically placed, and he shares one wall with a meat smoking joint and another wall with a tire shop. Sorry Mr. Man From Another Time, the west side of L.A. still rules for quirky sole proprietor shops with hard-to-find merchandise.  So I found something the (no name, please) shop posted on the internet, emailed them to hold it for my perusal and took a typical SoCal three freeway drive to see it.  In parts of Europe, I’d have crossed a couple of borders making the  trek. I parked in one of the public structures where I could get 2 hours of free parking, enough time for my errand and maybe a snack.

When I lived in Santa Monica, February meant a turtleneck against foggy weather, so I wore one.  Saturday it was an unreal 80 degrees.  I stopped at Gap to buy a t shirt lest I melt.  Right nearby was an inviting little storefront promising small bites and an extensive wine list.   It was called The Misfit.  And you thought the title of the article was about me?  Trust me, I’m pretty mainstream.  Outside the joint, people in yoga clothes (really fit people, looking perfect) lounged.  Maybe all the small bites involved yogurt?   Looked at the menu.  There was kale, but also skinny fries.  There  were tons of fresh made cocktails (not for a three freeway drive day, sadly), and ribs, and  fresh dips and. . .  all right I’d stop in before going home.

The awesome bar, seemingly shot with old school high speed black and white film with a long exposure. It’s cozy inside, not eery, I swear.

The 3rd street Promenade  is an open air mall which is car free.  The only traffic is human. You simply can’t go 20 yards without overhearing strolling tourists with international accents and seeing street musicians, comedy acts  and today, a fire and brimstone preacher.  Penn and Teller paid their dues down on the Venice Boardwalk and the dream indeed is still alive.  Lotsa hope down there.  Not so for the “psychic” Irish tea leaf reader, dressed in too much green velvet, who looked seriously cranky.  Maybe it was the boy band near her.  I mean boy.  I mean 10 years old, loud and doing covers of songs much older than their parents.  They had guts, anyway.   Stopped in to the shop, examined, totally changed my mind about what to buy, and headed back to the car.

Ha, gotcha.

Went to The Misfit.

I sat at the bar and got an immediate menu from someone cheerful, then ordered and almost immediately got roasted chicken and kale soup ($6).   Water (free).  Watched the bartender make their homemade sangria with white wine and fresh fruit. Eye wandered over the decor, which included a collection of vintage cocktail shakers, vintage decorative only stereo speakers straight from my teen years.  (JBL).   Younger readers will say:  what’s a stereo? what’s a JBL?  why would a  speaker be 18 inches long?  Ask your grandpa. In keeping with retro decor was retro food in all the right way.  No premade broth that I could detect.  Nothing from the restaurant supply Cisco truck.   Neat wine list.  Decent prices.  I cracked and ordered the hand cut fresh made skinny fries.  Half order $3.   You could taste the beef fat  they were finish fried in (all the rage lately) but they needed salt.  Had the yoga crowd quietly protested with deep looks and sighs?  Why would beef fat be okay but not salt?   A misstep corrected by asking for a salt shaker, delivered basically, yes, immediately.   I finished up, nosed around.  The kitchen is upstairs with an open window you can see into (not hiding much).  The wait staff gets the added bonus of cardio all day and night with the Parisian-style restaurant stairs.

Great service, reasonable menu, busy but friendly.  Such a find. What magic alchemy of financing, staffing and sourcing made this happen?

I research it.  It’s owned by a mini restaurant group from Phoenix who does this kind of thing.  They have a couple places in Pasadena.  So unicorns and the magic restaurant fairy were not involved.   Pros who train their staff really well were behind the magic, for a change.  Yay.  I’ve  now read like 300 raves and near raves on yelp, and learned I completely missed getting their salted chocolate chip cookies to go (6 for $3).  You know what?  I like a place you find without yelp or the internet, and learning about it later.  But this does explain why the busy staff was surprised when I looked like a greenhorn at the menu, was curious at the decor and displayed no “please me, I expect the moon” behavior .

Go.  We’ll meet for cookies and cocktails.   It’s at 225 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401, and the public garage across from the Laemmle theater is really close. We’ll go early.  Happy hour is  noon to 7 every day.

Muffins With Moms

My Scottish grandmother was a terrific baker.  The Waterloo for most home bakers is pie crust.  Snap.  How about nice crumbly scones?  Double snap. I can make those both very well, thanks to her.   Having left school at 14 (typical then), and with no desire to work in a factory (horrible work), a shop (nice young girls did not mix with strangers), or a pub (are you kidding?) she had been a housekeeper to a couple of, as they said in the U.K. way back when, “retired gentlewomen.”    Bake well, keep your job. That will raise your game.  Marriage whisked her away from all that.  World War II finished the social re-ordering begun during World War I, and I assume retired gentlewomen now order in.   Or maybe they have Posh Meals on Wheels?

All by way of saying today, here in Southern California , in a world unimaginable by my Granny Glen, was Muffins With Moms day at Juliet’s elementary school.  Earlier in the year was Donuts With Dads.   Next month, Oatmeal With Old Folks?  Kidding.

Juliet awoke at about 6:30, got dressed and woke me at 6:42, informing me she would come back at 7 a.m. at which time I would be getting up.   She’s been getting herself up and dressed for the past week, much to our fascination.   I dozed a bit and then she did return at 7 and I dutifully got in the shower.  By 7:35 I was wearing a nice blouse and jacket with my customary jeans and we were curling her hair so we would both be looking our best.

To make it on time for the 7:45 beginning (we always arrive as close to first as possible for all school events.  It’s not considered uncool until you are about 15, I think), we drove the 2 blocks to school.  Mock me if you will, but that nice warm car was awesome during today’s 20 mile an hour winds.    We parked near the school, joining the throng of mostly Hondas and SUVs bearing moms and kids.   The Multi Purpose Room had plenty of mom and child volunteers directing us to the treat-laden tables.  Today was a modest fundraiser mostly meant for us to have a little downtime before the rush of real life.  I mean how much money can you make when the muffins are 25 cents for small, 50 cents for big, and coffee or milk costs a quarter?

Back to my Gran and her home baking.  Everything on offer was a steroidal leaden bomb from the grocery.  Not even a bakery muffin in sight.   Sigh. Who bakes any more?  Answer: no one, at least when it comes to feeding 700 moms and kids.  We spied some mini cinnamon rolls and bought 3.  And they were pretty darn good.  So was the Starbucks coffee and actual half and half for said coffee.   Since our choice was between sitting outside in the wind and having a picnic in the car, guess where we went?

So we hung out for about 30 minutes, watching people arrive and fight the wind up the hill to the school.  We  cruised for tunes on the radio and blasted the heat.  Too many drive time commercials.  We put in our well-worn Kids Bop 20 c.d.  Those are covers of popular songs with cleaned up lyrics sung by talented kid singers who are not famous.   Cleaned up Lada Gaga.  Cleaned up sexy dance numbers with the sex taken out.  Cleaned up ballads without references to drugs or suicide.   Kinda nice, actually.

We joked about keeping our cinnamon rolls secret since they did not start with “m.”   We tried to think of other breakfast foods that start with “m.”  “Milky Way”, chortled Juliet. “Milkshake”, she added.  “Meat”, said I, half-heartedly. At the thought of meat, Milky Ways and a milkshake for breakfast,  Juliet laughed too much and spit milk on her shirt, her knee and parts of the seat.   Thank god for black pants and plenty of napkins.  Too soon, it was time to face the wind.

Back home, John asked where his muffin order was.  Hmm.  Juliet did not mention a muffin order.

Oh well.  Guess I’ll be making muffins this weekend.

House Salad Dressing at Chez Romano

About 100 years ago in the 1980’s, I watched some British gadabout on PBS doing a really awesome canal trip in France. He was a movie producer of note (no, I can’t remember his name) and made a point of stopping to buy wine like every 1/4 mile. Good for him.    He also ate really well and trotted out his adequate French to buy local ingredients for his staff to cook.  Yeah, he traveled with a staff.  Of course.   Like he was going to cook for sound and camera.   The man had wine to drink! And I consider anyone who can go on a multi week canal trip with a staff, crew and get all expenses paid by someone else on the off chance it will be aired on t.v. a truly brilliant producer.

At one of his stops, he bought lettuce picked straight from the field.  Then it was prepared into a salad the right way.   You put  a small puddle of mild olive oil into a big bowl.  You dash vinegar into it.  You grind pepper on it and dash in salt.  You whisk it and then put the leaves in, coating them lightly.  If you are really fancy, you switch up the vinegar, add dry mustard or red pepper flakes, or some grated cheese, a mashed up garlic clove.  You get the picture.

Anyway, ever since, I have done dressing like this, though often in a mini food processor so I have extra and can use it another day.

Fig Balsamic Vinegar, Seasoned Rice Vinegar, Canola Oil, Olive Oil, Oregano. Mix and match.

Not really sure what a puddle measures out to, but I’d bet it’s under 1/4 cup. A dash is a quick slug.  Beware vinegar bottles without that little dropper thing.  You’ll be dumping out the sour puddle in the sink (the dog won’t eat it) and starting over.