Brown Butter & Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

I had no idea that chocolate chip cookies were missing anything. But they were. Two things. Are you ready? This could change your outlook on life, so prepare.

1. Browned butter. And if you want to know what heaven probably smells like, just go brown some butter. Real talk.

2. Toasted coconut. I love the texture of coconut. Many people do not; I understand this. My aunt refers to it simply as “worms.” Once I made a coconut cake for Thanksgiving and brought it to her house. I vowed never to do it again when she looked at it with a grimace and said, “You brought a worm cake? To my house?” Never again. But, as long as she’s not around, the coconut in these cookies put them over the edge.

It’s a depth of flavor thing. The browned butter tastes sort of caramelized, and the toasted coconut is chewy and crispy and nutty and wonderful. The extra time it takes to pre-brown the butter and pre-toast the coconut is absolutely worth it. I have decided that I only want to eat browned butter from now on. On toast, on sweet potatoes, on my fingers. On everything.

The perfect scratch-made chocolate chip cookie is a lifelong struggle, I’ve decided. To be honest, this is the closest I’ve come. I have learned two things. First, chill the dough. The longer the better. Second, don’t overwork the dough. When you put the dry ingredients into the wet, only mix long enough to incorporate. I’m not sure why this matters, but it does. I’m sure there is some science-y explanation. But just trust. These tricks give you soft, thick cookies rather than thin and crispy ones.

I have been eating little pieces of these cookies since they came out of the oven. I will have one for breakfast tomorrow. With my coffee. And then I’ll take the rest to work, where I’ll be a little sad (in spite of myself) every time someone else eats one. Just because I’m not eating it instead. But I’m glad to share. At least I can pretend to be.

Brown Butter & Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies 

makes about 2 dozen medium-sized cookies

(adapted from Joy the Baker and Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess)

1 cup butter (after browning, it will be less)

3/4 cup of brown sugar

1 cup granulated white sugar

1/4 cup milk

1 whole egg

1 egg yolk

1 tbs vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

1/2 tsp salt (or a little more if you like some bite… I do!)

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup toasted coconut (unsweetened)

1 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Start by browning your butter. Eliminate all distractions. You need to smell this with all your attention. Now, just put the butter in a pan and stir until it begins to turn a caramel brown color. Get it out of the pan before it starts to burn.

Now, toast your coconut. But watch it, it’ll burn if you get lost in a brown butter/toasted coconut aroma reverie. Take it from someone who’s been there.

In a large bowl, combine your browned butter and both the white and brown sugar. Beat until incorporated, then add the whole egg and the egg yolk, the milk, and the vanilla. Mix again. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together.

Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet. Only mix until it is smoothly incorporated.

Fold the chocolate chips and the coconut into the dough.

Important step: Chill the dough for at least 1/2 hours if you like thicker cookies. If not, bake right away. I recommend chilling.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Make palm-sized dough balls and place them about 2 inches apart. I pressed mine down into flat circles because this dough does not spread much at all. I made mine a uniform thickness. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Place cookies on a cooling rack. I don’t suggest eating one so soon that the melty chocolate chips burn the roof of your mouth. But if you must…

Black Bean Stir Fry

Today was the kind of day that makes me want to drink hot coffee and read books while wearing leggings and thick, wooly socks. There was this layer of fog that just stayed about six feet off the ground all day. It was wet and cold and sleepy. All day. When I got home from work, the last thing I wanted to do was leave again, so I made dinner with what I could find.

The beauty of this kind of dinner is that you can make it with anything. For this, I stir fried the asparagus, the squash, and the green peppers and then threw in the beans. I also added some cumin and mustard powder. Served over brown rice, the bowl doubles as a hand warmer. Which is a major plus on a day like today. Now the dishes are washed and I’m curled up under a blanket. And all is right with the world.

Black Bean Stirfry:

1 of each vegetable you happen to have. Yellow squash or zucchini are a good base, along with a green or red pepper. From there, you can add pretty much anything. Carrots are good, too. Try to vary your colors.


Canned black beans, not drained

Brown rice

Mustard powder


Salt & Pepper to taste

Toasted sesame seeds for sprinkling

Start with your brown rice. Before you even cut up your vegetables. That stuff takes forever. I always forget, but trust me, allow like an hour. When you have about 15 minutes left on the rice, throw the veggies in a hot pan and stir them around a little. Then reduce the heat and pour in the black beans, undrained. Add the spices (not the sesame seeds), cover and let simmer until veggies are soft. Toast sesame seeds in another pan.

Serve stir fry over rice with sesame seeds sprinkled on top. Hold the bowl in your hands while curled up under a blanket watching something great on TV. May I suggest 30 Rock?

Beverly McIver

I went to the North Carolina Museum of Art with my mom this week. We went mostly to see the Rembrandt in America exhibit, but we also looked at some of the other temporary exhibits. In order to avoid destroying my already non-existent cred as an art observer, I should start by saying that the Rembrandt exhibit was fantastic. I learned a ton, and I got to see really wonderful works of art up close (I’m a master at keeping my toes on the line and leaning forward so far that my nose is just inches from the canvas–never mind the weird looks from that guard…). However, in my humble (very humble) opinion, the crowds are missing the real show, which is Beverly McIver’s exhibit, called Reflections.

McIver describes all of her portraits, even those of other people, as self-portraits. She paints what she sees reflected of herself in another person’s image. One of her most common subjects is her older sister, Renee. Renee has a mental illness and McIver has been her caretaker since their mother died in 2004.

She’s beautiful. The portraits of Renee were so wonderful. Just by looking at the paintings, I could see how McIver feels about her sister. They’re some of the most touching paintings I’ve ever seen.

Of course, there were a lot of straightforward self portraits, too.

This one has nine similar portraits, each with a prayer above it. They range from small to large prayers, from family deaths to frustrating trips to the DMV. It’s great.

Needless to say, I’m a huge fan. I found out today that there’s a movie about Beverly and Renee. It’s called Raising Renee. I have not seen it yet, but I will report back if I do.

So Rembrandt in America was great, but honestly, who can relate to this flea collar situation?

But really. Come on.

Renee, on the other hand, is so real it feels like she might just walk off the canvas. You can almost hear her laughing when you look at her portraits. I feel like I know her. I’m going back before the exhibit is over.

Blood Oranges, Grapefruit and Goat Cheese, Oh My!

There’s something so pretty about citrus. For real. It’s sort of amazing that these things grow on trees.

I have a confession: I don’t ever buy grapefruits. Don’t get me wrong, I love grapefruits. In fact, if left to my own devices, I would eat nothing else. Until my stomach hurt because of the overwhelming acidity. I know this because I’ve done it before. I bought one of those gigantic bags of grapefruits because it was on sale at the grocery store. And then I proceeded to eat them non-stop until they were gone. A couple of days later, I was on a strict diet of bananas and milk. I’m not kidding. I ate them like it was my job. And I don’t mess around with sugar and those cute little grapefruit knives.

My mom gave me four grapefruits yesterday, but don’t worry–I’ll pace myself.

I did buy some blood oranges the other day. They were on sale. And they’re so pretty! I’ve been eating them in salads.

This one is just mixed greens, goat cheese, and a mix of blood oranges and grapefruit pieces. With oil & vinegar. And a sandwich. Grilled turkey and cheese with pickles.

To make this salad and sandwich, you assemble the ingredients you see pictured. Grill sandwich in a cast iron skillet. And try not to make yourself sick eating citrus this winter.


I think this is what Sundays are for. I’ve been sitting by the window, reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil curled up under a blanket and drinking coffee. All day. That’s it for today. Today, this Sunday, is about coffee and this book. And that is the perfect Sunday.

Ode to Jason’s Bookshelf

I love books. I especially love books in large quantities on shelves. When I found this website, I spent hours drooling over the pictures. Sometimes, I like to take everything off my bookshelves and then rearrange everything. I love looking at other people’s bookshelves. Not just at the books that they have, but at how they organize the books. I like to have hardbacks with hardbacks, and similarly-sized books grouped together. I also like to put some in sideways. I can stuff more books into a bookshelf than seems possible.

I feel like you can learn things about people by looking at their bookshelves.

I love Jason’s bookshelf.

It has all this weird stuff on it, like a Spock coffee mug.

I have no idea where this thing came from, but I love it. I love that Jason keeps it on his bookshelf right in front of a book called Buddhist Ethics, which I also have no explanation for.

Jason keeps everything. In a really great way. When we go on trips together, we come home with piles and piles of brochures, maps, tickets, notes, napkins and various other little keepsakes. Then they sit. In weird places, stuffed inside of notebooks, sometimes on our bookshelves. There’s never anything too strange to bring home.

Jason’s bookshelf is like a little museum of things that are important to him, books that he read and loved, books that someone recommended and he bought but never read, vitamins that he never takes, things he uses every day, and trinkets that even he doesn’t remember the significance of. 

Take a moment and look at someone else’s bookshelf. They’re like little biographies if you pay attention.


Today is Jason’s 26th birthday!

We had pasta with roasted cherry tomatoes and basil for dinner. And then the cake. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I roasted the tomatoes…

…until they looked like this…

…and they smell delicious. Then I just tossed it all together and threw some flaky parmesan on top. It was light and easy and great for pre-cake dinner.

The cake. Oh, the cake. After eating it, I highly recommend trying it out. But mostly just the cake part. The avocado icing, while really pretty, still tastes vaguely avocado-y, which is weird. I’m thinking cream cheese icing instead, although that’s decidedly non-vegan. The cake, however, tastes nothing like avocado. It’s moist and chocolatey and wonderful. It’s my new go-to cake recipe. And nobody could ever tell that it’s vegan.

Okay, for the pasta:

1 lb spaghetti

1 lb little tomatoes

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and black pepper to taste + red pepper flakes if you like spicy.

lots of basil

flaky parmesan cheese

Toss the tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, black pepper and red pepper. Spread them out on a pan and put them in the oven on 400. Start making your pasta. Leave the ‘maters in the oven until they start splitting and getting all wrinkly and pretty-looking. When your pasta is done, set aside some pasta water. Give the basil a rough chop and then toss it all together! Serve with cheese on top, and maybe a whole basil leaf if you want to get all fancy pants. This is a a good idea if it’s someone’s birthday. Which it is!

Oh yeah, here’s this: