Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about pairs.  So much of the world is replete with pairs.  A pair of jeans, a pair of earrings, a pair of chopsticks, a pair of lungs, Bert and Ernie, Thelma and Louise, Mork and Mindy, Bo and Luke, Bono and The Edge, Ponch and Jon, Tarzan and Jane, Ben and Jerry, fish ‘n chips, PB&J, peaches and cream….you get the picture.  But I really, truly cannot think of a pair I love more, than—Milk and Cookies.

Could anything be more perfect?

I’ve spoken before about how the tradition of after-school milk and cookies didn’t translate across the pond to Ireland.  My beloved Irishman is making up for all those childhood years lost big time as an adult!  To this day, watching him enjoy a simple snack of milk and cookies is like watching a Cirque de Soleil performance–-beyond fascinating.  With delight in his eyes, he savors each cranny of melted chocolate, every leftover buttery crumb; he sips his milk, the way you would a fine wine, timing each sip as if he’s trained for it his whole life.  It’s both hilarious and impossibly endearing.
This recipe for whole wheat dark chocolate chip cookies has emboldened him even further.  “Come onnnnn, just one more; they’re good for us”.  I give in.  I love making these cookies GIGANTIC.  I’m talking 4-5 inches round, almost the size of my entire hand.  This allows for a crispy, outer edge before hitting the eye-rolling-to-the-back-of-the-head, soft, gooey center.  You’ll want a napkin on hand for these monsters.  I serve them warm, individually on a plate, and of course, paired with a tall glass of ice cold milk.

Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies, yields 10-12 gigantic cookies
Adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

I make small batches simply because I don’t trust myself (or my husband) enough!!  But you can easily double the recipe.  These are best eaten warm from the oven, or later that same day.  Will keep in an airtight container for 3 days.

Use the very best chocolate you can find.  Scharffen Berger 70% Cacao, bittersweet dark is my go-to.  I love adding rolled oats, nuts, orange zest, and/or dried cherries or cranberries, and of course, a sprinkling of good sea salt before baking; it elevates chocolate chip cookies from good, to great.

Music Pairing:  Cookie Monster, C is for Cookie


  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped into 1/4 and 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • good sea salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking pan with parchment paper.  

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back any bits of leftover grain.  Add butter and sugars into bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment.  On low, mix until just blended, about 2 minutes.  Add egg, mixing until combined.  Mix in vanilla.  Add flour mixture and blend on low until barely combined, about 30 seconds.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl.

Add chocolate, hazelnuts and zest to batter.  Using a wooden spoon, mix until just combined.  Scoop 1/3 cup mounds onto sheet, leaving 3 inches between them.  You should fit 6 on a sheet.  Sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake for 18-22 minutes for the gigantic cookies and 16-20 minutes for smaller ones, rotating halfway through until cookies are evenly dark brown.  Transfer the cookies, still on parchment, to the counter to cool.

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Tomales Bay Oysters

Isak Dinesen once wrote, “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea”.  Besides penning the novel, which later, was adapted into my all-time favorite movie, I’m convinced she not only was referring to the healing powers of the salty sea, but to the bewitching, briny, exquisite creatures laying well below it.  One slurp of these babies and, Yowza!!  Senses are amplified—you’re suddenly more awake, more ALIVE.  Cold is colder, sweet is sweeter, and happy is happier.  Yep, I’m talkin’ about oysters.  Like stinky cheeses, brussels sprouts, or fish sauce —there’s no middle ground when it comes to oysters.  Either you love ‘em, or you hate ‘em.

I, for one, am solidly in the L-O-V-E camp.  My love is unflinching for my oh-so-slurpable friends.  A devout oyster purist, I am.  I don’t want them gussied up with butter, cheese, garlic, bread crumbs, parsley, salt or pepper.  I don’t want them baked, barbecued, broiled, roasted, steamed, smoked or fried.  I don’t want them to go by fancy-pants names, like Rockefeller, or goofy ones, like Bingo.  Oysters are like kisses from the sea, and I want my kisses one, and only one way: Raw, on the half shell, with a quick squirt of fresh lemon and a small smattering of Hog Wash Mignonette.  Forget hush money, promise me a few dozen Kumamotos and I’m your girl.

Admittedly, I developed my oyster crush late in life.  It wasn’t until my first year out of college did I have my first encounter.  And to be honest, I was pretty nervous.  Palm-sweating-nervous.  I was living in Chicago, out at my favorite sushi joint, minding my own business, when two oyster shooters arrived at the table.  Staring at the tallish shot glasses, I debated whether to “accidentally” knock mine onto the floor, dart out the back door to hail a taxi, or turn myself invisible.  Instead, I closed my eyes, held my nose and the rest, as they say, is history.

Oysters have a reputation for only performing on ‘special’ occasions.  Anniversaries, birthdays, weddings and the like.  They’re often members of the forgettable opening act and seldom, if ever, the main headliner, the Lady Gaga—the one you really came to see.  But luckily, we now live less than an hour’s drive from beautiful Tomales Bay, the epi-center of all things slurpy, salty and wonderful, where fresh local oysters, at dirt cheap prices (the Dungeness Crab ain’t so shabby either) are served up in a small, nondescript shack just off Hwy 1, turning any ordinary Saturday morning into the most special of special occasions.  The kind when you’re celebrating nothing at all.  Here, oysters are always the main headliner, and any ordinary Saturday morning turns into a delectabale, salty cure for anything.

I think Miss Dinesen would agree.

hog island oyster hog island oyster
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It started simply enough.  Innocently enough.

Somehow, someway, somebody snuck not one, not two, but three bunches of baby beets into our home.  Given the fact that I’m a lifelong, card carrying member of the N.A.B.A., otherwise known as the National Anti-Beet Association, I knew the ‘somebody’, was certainly not me.

Growing up, I believed beets were served and eaten one, and only one way:  out of an aluminum can packed by the folks who lived in a town called Del Monte. Those fine folks made fruit cocktail, too.  Even as a little girl, beets were horribly off-putting to me.  To be honest, they scared the bejesus out of me. The gelatinous texture, the pungent smell, the unnameable taste, and an alien color which didn’t match any in my sacred box of 64-Crayola Crayons, the bible of all things pigmented and pretty.

Since then, I’ve had a rather turbulent on-again, off-again relationship with beets.  Every time I think I can commit to a bigger bite, I back off.  And RUN.  With 3 bunches of beets at my mercy, I was in a conundrum.  “Take one more chance on us”, I hear them say. “We promise this time it’ll be different”.  How many times had I heard that before?  Reluctantly, I put them back in the fridge (instead of in a bag on my neighbor’s doorstep) and with no other N.A.B.A. members in sight to commiserate with, I head to the bookstore for an afternoon distraction.

Lo and behold, THE beet recipe of all beet recipes lands in my lap.  Thyme Roasted Baby Beets with Mint Vinaigrette.  THE beet recipe which, in an insanely delicious, hocus-pocus, abracadabra instant, converts me from beet basher to beet worshipper.  Just like magic.  Just like that.  Yes, roasted beets are a now a weekly staple and somebody is very happy about it.

Make sure to use an assortment of beets, not just the old familiar red ones.  Not only are golden and chioggia beets gorgeous to look at, they add a subtle nuance of sweetness to the final dish.  If I can’t make to the farmer’s market, I like buying my beets in the loose bulk bin at Whole Foods.  I can pick and choose the exact mix I want and get only as much as I need for that evening (plus, it costs less than buying them in full bundles).  If you have trouble finding baby beets, medium ones are dandy.  Slice them in half before cooking.  For larger beets, slice into quarters.  Just make sure all pieces are more or less the same size to ensure even cooking.

And whatever you do, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT leave out the fresh mint.  This dish without the mint is like a crème brûlée without its heart-stopping crackly top.  It just wouldn’t be the same without it.

Adapted from Harvest to Heat

Music Pairing: ABBA, Take A Chance on Me

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