Hello again! It’s been a while. I’ve been spending time this spring and summer doing some back-end work on the blog, a little freelance work, relaxing, working on small projects around the house, etc. I’m back with a post I’ve been meaning to share for a long time now. I want to talk about three things: a fantastic vegetarian cookbook, cookbook clubs, and a skillet cookie.
In case you weren’t aware, Alex and Sonja, the husband and wife duo from A Couple Cooks, are two of the sweetest bloggers on earth. Their first cookbook came out this spring, titled Pretty Simple Cooking. Much like two other favorites of mine, Love Real Food and the Love and Lemons Cookbook, it’s vegetarian and PERFECT for beginner cooks or people looking to add more easy, meatless meals to their lives. This one has a cool feature: within each chapter the recipes get progressively more difficult and/or time consuming. That way you know if you start in the beginning of a chapter you’ll be safe. (That is, if you’re a little nervous in the kitchen). It’s also great when you know you need a quicker recipe, or maybe if you’re looking for something slower so you can enjoy some wine on a lazy Sunday evening while you cook.
Shortly before the book came out I started a cookbook club with some friends. I knew we had to cover Pretty Simple Cooking at one of our meetings because it was actually one of Alex and Sonja’s blog posts that convinced me to finally start a cookbook club in the first place. (FYI – a cookbook club is a regularly scheduled dinner party where you and all of your friends cook recipes from the same cookbook to create a meal.) I had been stewing over the idea for a while, but reading their post made me text my friends Char and Kelley and just commit to the idea, no matter how imperfect it might look for us.
For the record, we’ve only had two meetings so far. At the first one (back in November) we tackled Love and Lemons (one of my favorite cookbooks of all time) and the second one was with Pretty Simple Cooking in March. (It was merely a coincidence that both of our first books were vegetarian.) We have a third tentatively scheduled for September. We’ll be grilling pizzas with help from the book Pizza Camp (my favorite pizza book!).
Here’s what has helped me to actually start and somewhat maintain a cookbook club:
MAKE IT A SMALL CORE GROUP
I reached out to two other couples we’re very close with to dive into this with me. They’re four friends who are similar to Robert and me in their enthusiasm for home cooking, cookbooks, and experimenting in the kitchen, who also happen to be living in town where we are. We have a LOT of close friends (#brag) who all like to eat good food, but we kept the core group to 6 of us, which is a great number for a dinner party. The idea is that we pick a date and time that works for all 6 of us, and then we open it up to a bunch of other friends. Whoever can make it will also come and contribute. But if no one else can do it, the 6 of us can still have a dinner party by ourselves. So far that’s worked well for us and we’ve had 10-12 people at both of our meals.
KEEP THE PRESSURE OFF
We went into this knowing that we would only be able to do it once every 2-3 months or so. There’s no way we could have worked it into all of our schedules and done it once a month or something like that. We keep our meetings to weekends so it doesn’t feel rushed on a weeknight, and it gives us plenty of time to prepare. It also allows for people traveling from out of town to be able to make it. (We have a few friends who like to attend who live 45 minutes to an hour away.) While we could have done it more frequently if we did the meals on weeknights, it wouldn’t have been as fun or relaxed for us.
Based on my experience, those two things are key. (Small core group + low pressure = a happy cookbook club.) Cookbook clubs in general are pretty chill, which is great. It’s a wonderful way to have a dinner party with friends but NOT have to cook the entire meal by yourself. It’s essentially a curated potluck party. If you’re considering starting one with friends, just go for it and keep it relaxed – it doesn’t have to be a huge production every time. If you’re a cookbook hoarder/lover like me, it’s such a good way to try out a bunch of recipes from one book without having to make them all yourself. Plus then you can let each other know if the recipe tripped you up in any way or if it was easier/harder than you expected. I love it!
For our Pretty Simple Cooking party, we did a brunch. Here’s a look at our menu:
- Creamy Artichoke Hummus + a veggie platter for appetizers
- Moroccan Sweet Potato Stew with Quinoa
- Homemade Whole Wheat Naan
- Kale Caesar Salad with Paprika Croutons
- Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Skillet Cookie
- Affogatos with homemade Creamy Chai Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream
- champagne (obviously)
Our general rule is whoever is hosting will also be in charge of the entree because that’s harder to transport. (After that it’s kind of a free-for-all and people chime in with what they’d like to bring.) Since Robert and I were hosting, we made the sweet potato stew and the quinoa. I also made the skillet cookie, which I’m sharing with you today. I had my eyes on that from the moment I got the book – y’all know how I feel about chocolate chip cookies, especially when there’s flaky salt on top. This skillet cookie is also a winner because it’s gluten-free. I’ve been experimenting more with gluten-free baking so I’m excited to have this recipe in my back pocket.
The original recipe for this skillet cookie requires an 8-inch skillet. My cast iron skillet is ten inches, so I wanted to adapt it to fit mine. Even though I could have done it in an 8″ cake pan or pyrex, I wanted to make it in our cast iron because we’re obsessed with it. Plus, a bigger skillet = a bigger skillet cookie. So I did a little math and scaled it up. (I love doing that.) I bumped it from an egg white to a full egg just to keep things easy, plus an egg yolk helps to keep things moist (sorry) and chewy. I also swapped half the light brown sugar for dark brown because I can’t leave well enough alone. This comes together quickly and it’s soooo good.
As I was testing and tweaking this for blog purposes, the guys at work became very attached to it and were thrilled whenever I brought in leftovers. They were all amazed that it was gluten-free, too. I found myself eating half the pan, nibble by nibble, shortly after it came out of the oven, so it was good that I could share it with my coworkers. Needless to say, it’s a crowd pleaser (and it goes well with ice cream).
Alex and Sonja’s book is a gem and we’ve cooked from it quite a bit beyond the cookbook party. Our favorite recipe (besides this skillet cookie) is probably the turmeric rice bowls with tempeh, kale, broccoli, and a lemon tahini drizzle. It was our first try at making tempeh and now we’re hooked. You’ve gotta try it.
If you’re looking for a solid vegetarian book with everyday meals, it’s a great one to add to your list.
Thanks for sticking around these parts as I figure out where blogging fits into my life these days. Even though I don’t post as often as I’d like, it’s great to know I can dip in and out as necessary and you guys will still be here to follow along. Remember you can always keep up with me on Instagram and Facebook, where I post frequently even when the blog isn’t super active. And if you want to make sure you never miss a post, you can get all my new posts via email by signing up here. I should hopefully have a few more posts on here soon, but in the meantime I hope you enjoy the rest of the summer. xoxo
Illustration at top created with pen and Photoshop.
Prints of my illustrations (along with other products with my work on them) are available in my Society6 shop.
- 2½ cups almond flour
- ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
- ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
- ½ tsp coarse kosher salt
- 1 large egg
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1¼ tsp vanilla extract
- 2.5 oz (about ½ cup) chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chps
- heaping ¼ tsp flaky sea salt (like Maldon)
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the almond flour, both brown sugars and the kosher salt.
- In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg, melted butter and vanilla extract. (Be careful to make sure the melted butter is not too hot or it will cook the egg.) Add wet mixture to the almond flour mixture, along with most of the chocolate chunks. (Reserve some for pressing on top later.)
- Using a spatula, stir until no more dry spots remain and the dough sticks together in a big lump. Press the dough evenly into a 10-inch nonstick skillet. (I use my cast iron one.) Scatter your leftover chocolate chunks on top, and then use the bottom of a glass to flatten the top of the dough. Sprinkle the flaky sea salt on top. (At this point you can let the cookie dough sit out for twenty minutes or so until you're ready to bake it, or even cover it with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for a longer period of time. I've let it sit out for 30 minutes before baking, and I think it gives a slight improvement on texture. Definitely not necessary, however.)
- Bake for about 15-17 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Allow to cool for 30 minutes so the texture can set. Slice into wedges and serve, or just top with some ice cream and place on the middle of the table to dig in with some forks and the help of your friends. Enjoy!