Cooking for Others: Our Small Kitchen, Launched and Ready to Mingle



EVENT: Big Girls, Small Kitchen Launch Party
VENUE: Phoebe’s Apartment, Flatiron
PARTY SIZE: oh, just 75 of our closest friends
TYPE: After-work dips and drinks
MENU: Panko-Crusted Spinach Dip; Spicy Chipotle Hummus; Mint and Sweet Pea Dip; White Bean, Caramelized Onion, and Rosemary Puree; Dueling Oatmeal Chocolate Cookie Party Favors


We passed the three month blogging mark, and to your Quarter-Life Cooks, that meant it was time to throw a party. The plan was to have a casual get-together with the readers and friends who’ve shown us their vested interest in the blog, feed them, and talk to them in a non-creepy, experimental way—finding out what they liked and wanted more of, and getting inspired by the ways they make use of their kitchens. This materialized for about the first ten guests who arrived and then, well, it kind of just became a party.

In any event, like the more intimate food occasions we host, we did take a relatively low-key, cost-effective approach, making dips that could be assembled in advance, and offering a take-away or two to be shared with your kitchen (and stomach) once back at home.

The take-away, our home-made party favors of sorts, came from the roots of our blog and our cooking friendship in general. To embrace redundancy for those just tuning in:

Our cooking friendship began as a bit of a rivalry over chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies. Whose confection was richer, homier, more chocolate-y? we challenged our friends over Tupperware containers during high-school free periods (well, sort of), Phoebe a proponent of the Joy of Cooking version, Cara of the classic Betty Crocker. The dispute was never settled. The friendship, however, continued.

At the risk of opening old wounds and, the more perilous danger, revealing to our big kid friends just how dorky we still are, we offered party favors in the form of these very cookies. Both varieties were carefully (and fairly) made by Cara over the course of the week, packaged in a pastel color scheme, and distributed in between bowls of bean dips for critical consumption.

For those of you who missed out, or failed to share the dueling P and C confections with your neighbor, we’ve included both recipes below to test for yourselves. Whether on our way to Mr. Montera’s American History class way back when, or now, in between conversations on recessionista ways past and present, we’re always happy to have a bite of both.

From our small kitchen, officially opened to yours,

Phoebe and Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOKS

**Recipes**
Panko-Crusted Spinach Dip
Makes about 10-15 servings

Ingredients
3 16-ounce bags frozen spinach
2 8-ounce boxes cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp saltFor the topping:

½ cup panko
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup Parmesan
2 tbsp olive oil

If you’ve done your grocery shopping a day or two in advance, leave the spinach out of the freezer (either in the fridge or on the counter) to defrost. When ready to use, remove spinach from the bag and place in a bed of paper towels (one or two). Fold the spinach in the paper towels to form a bundle and squeeze until all the water has been released. Unwrap, discard towel, and add greens to bowl.

Alternatively, if you are making the dip immediately upon returning from the grocery store, empty the spinach into a casserole pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Replace lid and allow the spinach to defrost, stirring occasionally. Once almost all the frozen chunks have broken down, remove lid and let the moisture begin to evaporate. When this process is finished, use paper towel method above to make sure the spinach has no excess moisture.

In a medium bowl, combine the spinach, sour cream, mayonnaise, Parmesan, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and salt. Place cream cheese in the microwave for 1-2 minutes until soft enough to easily stir into the mixture. Add cheese and stir until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Place in an oven-proof baking or casserole dish.

TIP: dip can be made up until this point 1-2 days prior to serving. Seal with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated.

Preheat the over to 350°F.

Bake spinach dip for 20-25 minutes, until the top has begun to firm up and harden. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the topping, making sure the olive oil is well distributed. Remove the dip from the oven, and sprinkle the topping evenly over the top. Increase the temperature to 400°F, and return dip to oven for ten minutes. The topping should be nice and golden brown.

Serve immediately with tortilla chips for dipping.

Spicy Chipotle Hummus
Makes 1 large bowl (serves roughly 10)

Ingredients

3 15-ounce can chick-peas, drained
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
6 tbsp tahini
1 lemon, juiced
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp paprika
1 ½ tsp salt
2 chipotle peppers in adobo, minced
2 tbsp adobo liquids from can (maybe less, I would add this to taste depending on how spicy you like things)
½ cup water
Paprika or chili powder and olive oil for garnish

In a small food processor, combine the chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, cumin, paprika, and salt. Puree the mixture, adding the water as needed to thin it. When hummus is at desired consistency and smoothness, return to mixing bowl.

Mix in the minced chipotle peppers and 1 tbsp chipotle liquids. Taste for seasoning. Add additional chipotle liquids as desired.

Mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Garnish hummus with a couple dashes of paprika or chili powder, and a drizzle or two of olive oil. Serve with toasted pita, torn baguette, or carrots.

Minted Sweet Pea Dip
Makes 1 large bowl (serves roughly 10)

Ingredients

1 inch ginger
4 large shallots
4 cloves garlic
3 15 oz bags frozen peas
1 cup mint, roughly chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil

In a medium sauce pan or dutch oven with a lid, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Sauté the shallot for a few minutes until translucent and then add the garlic and ginger and continue to cook for an additional two minutes. Turn the flame to low and add the frozen peas. Stir to incorporate with the shallot mixture, cover, and cook for 5-10 minutes until peas are completely defrosted but not mushy.

Place ¾ of the mixture in a small food processor or blender and puree. Add the mint and combine. In a small bowl, combine the pea puree with all but ½ tablespoon of the remaining whole peas and stir to incorporate.

Mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Garnish with the tablespoon of peas, a few leaves of mint, and serve at room temperature with crusty torn baguette.

White Bean, Caramelized Onion, and Rosemary Puree
Makes 1 large bowl (serves roughly 10)

Ingredients

3 large Vidalia onions (or any sweet onion), thinly sliced
2 sprigs rosemary (about 2-3 tbsp), minced
¼ cup water
1 lemon, juiced
4 15oz cans cannelloni beans
1 tsp salt (to taste)

Sauté the onions over a medium flame, stirring very infrequently. Once they soften, and then begin to brown on each side, return the flame to low and allow to slowly caramelize. During this time, it is important to make sure the onions are spread as evenly as possible across the pan. Every few minutes, scrape the bottom and redistribute the onions so each gains the maximum amount of surface area. The intention is to slowly crisp the onions by enticing the remaining liquids to sweat out, and for the onions to sweeten by condensing in their own juices. If you stir too often, the onions will turn to mush. This process takes about 40 minutes.

In a small food processor, puree onions, beans, lemon, and water (as needed), until mixture is smooth.

Meanwhile, heat the minced rosemary and 1 tsp olive oil in the sauté pan used for the onions until aromatic, about two minutes. Add the herbs to the mixture and puree.

Return to mixing or serving bowl and season to taste. Canned cannelloni beans can be really salty, so tasting is very important before adding the salt.

Mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. Serve with crusty baguette.

Cara’s Ultimate Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Makes 3 dozen

As you’ll see, the cookies take two distinct approaches (which is why we felt comfortable having Cara make both…it’s more about the recipes competing, see, than the QLC’s): Phoebe’s method takes a regular chocolate chip cookie recipe and adds oatmeal, while Cara’s substitutes chocolate chips for raisins in a regular oatmeal cookie recipe. Since they share the ingredients that ultimately lead to deliciousness—butter, brown sugar, and chocolate—there’s less a competition between the bakers than a friendship-augmenting rivalry. In other words, the story has a happy ending.

Ingredients
2/3 cup white sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix butter with sugars until incorporated and creamy. Ad d the eggs and mix to combine. Stir in the vanilla extract

Separately, combine the baking soda, baking powder, salt, flour, oats, and chocolate chips. Add to the butter mixture and mix only until just combined.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet (about 2 inches apart). Bake 8-10 minutes until the edges are crisp and the centers are still slightly soft.

Phoebe’s Classic Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Makes 2 dozen

Ingredients
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup rolled oats

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, cream butter. Add in batches the brown sugar and white sugar and beat until fully incorporated and creamy.

In a separate bowl or cup, beat together the egg and vanilla. Add to the butter sugar mixture and stir to combine.

Sift flour, salt, and baking soda into the bowl of wet ingredients. You may want to do this in two batches as to avoid turning your kitchen white.

Once the dry ingredients are fully incorporated, stir in oatmeal and chocolate chips.

Drop from a teaspoon, well apart on a greased sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the top begins to firm up, but the cookies are still rather soft in the middle. Allow to cool on the baking sheet.

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  • Frankie

    I haven’t tasted them but I would vote for Phoebe’s recipe. I don’t think I like cinnamon with my chocolate! They both look sick delicious!

  • Magnoliabelle613

    HI! I am new to the site (referred from "MWF seeking BFF") and I tried Phoebe's cookies. They were fantastic. The only things I did differently were I used 3/4c of chocolate chips. Also next time I would lower the baking temp to 350. The cookies were very brown on the edges and that was only after 9 minutes! Other than that they were wonderful!

    ~Erin