And the Oscar goes to…

Even as a child, I always loved the glitz and the glamour of the Academy Awards. My favorite year was when Roberto Benigni won Best Actor (also one of my favorite films of all time). As an adult, I think I love the Oscars even more. Having seen 7 of the 9 films nominated for Best Picture this year, my hands-down favorite is The Artist. So endearing and delightful! Tap dancing AND a cute dog, it’s almost unfair. Was anyone else hoping Uggie would get an Oscar nom?

So for an Oscar party today, I’m bringing an appropriately themed The Artist dessert (I’m big on themes if you haven’t noticed). This one took me awhile to decide on though. I hemmed and hawed over what to make… something French? something fit for an adorable dog? In the end, I picked something that was black-and-white, just like the film.

These black and white cookies are just perfect. I’d never had a black and white cookie until I moved to NYC but you’ll find  them in any good NY style deli. They’re more cakelike than normal cookies but the best part is trying to get a biteful of equal parts black and white. I dainty-fied these to make that process even easier and cause it makes them that much cuter! Just like Uggie…

Hope you all enjoy watching the Oscars! What were some of your favorite films of this year?

Black and White Cookies

  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1 ¾ cups (12 ¼ oz.) sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. lemon extract (I used 1 teaspoon lemon zest)
  • 1 ½ cups milk

(1)    To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.  
(2)    In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk to combine, and set aside.  
(3)    In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds.  Add in the sugar gradually, increasing the speed to medium-high and beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  
(4)    Blend in the eggs, vanilla and lemon extracts at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds.  With the mixer on low speed, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, alternately add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions just until combined.
(5)    Using a tablespoon, place about 8 spoonfuls of dough evenly apart on each baking sheet. With moistened fingers, gently press each mound of dough into a disk 2½ inches wide and ¾ inch thick.  
(6)    Bake until the centers of the cookies are firm and the edges are just beginning to brown, about 10-12 minutes, rotating the baking pans halfway through the baking time.  Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes.  Use a wide spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining dough.  Let cookies cool completely before icing. 

For the glaze:

  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ⅓ – ½ cup water
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • 1-2 tablespoons cocoa (optional)

(1)    Boil a cup or so of water in a small pot.
(2)    Place confectioners’ sugar in large, heat-safe mixing bowl. Gradually stir in enough boiling water to the sugar to make a thick, spreadable mixture. Err on the side of caution because a too-thin frosting is hard to undo. Leave remaining boiling water on the stove.
(3)    Using an offset spatula or rubber spatula, spread icing on half of the flat side of each cookie. Once all cookie halves have been frosted, let set for about 15 minutes.
(4)    Place the bowl of the remaining frosting over the hot water and bring it back to a simmer (creating a double-boiler).
(5)    Stir in the unsweetened chocolate until melted, as well as the light corn syrup. At this point, depending on the chocolate you used and your preferences, you might find the chocolate color to be a little lighter than the “black” of a black-and-white cookie. If so, I find that a tablespoon or so of cocoa mixed in darkens the color nicely.
(6)   Ice the remaining half of the cookies with the chocolate frosting. The chocolate icing–especially with cocoa in it–is especially prone to getting too dry, so don’t worry about whisking in an extra teaspoon of that hot water from time to smooth it back into a shiny frosting.
(7)    Let the frosting set. Store in an airtight container. These cookies keep for a few days, but I think they’re best on the first or second. Because of the cake nature of the bases, they can get stale quickly.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

have a holly, jolly (Lincoln) Christmas!

2011 has been the year of my first grown-up Christmas. The first year I got my own Christmas tree in my own apartment with my very own golden pinecone star! Sexy Sallie (the name we bestowed on our tree) is the first real pine tree I’ve ever had and I have to say, the smell of a real pine tree is unmatched. Look at Sallie in all her glory…

Another first for me this Christmas was my first holiday work party. And lucky for me, I had not just one holiday party but two! The first was a lovely lunch last Friday hosted for the entire staff and volunteers of the museum. It was a wonderful affair held at the Temple of Dendur with entertainment provided by staff members (!!!).  Now, the second party was a smaller, less formal affair for our department planned by the PPC (Party Planning Committee) of which yours truly is a member. Here is the invitation we sent out for our holiday party:

Now I know what you’re probably thinking… ‘Umm, are they having a Lincoln-themed holiday party?’ I can feel your jealousy burning and let me explain.

(1) It’s actually a Civil War-themed holiday party, thank you very much
(2) Our Vice President of External Affairs is a pre-eminent Abraham Lincoln scholar and we were all hoping the theme would inspire a certain holiday bonus (still waiting on that btw)
(3) think Little Women. The soundtrack alone sold me.

Most of the staff outside of the PPC were still skeptical about the theme but once party time arrived, everyone got into the 1864 holiday spirit!

Our (Gingerbread) House Divided

wonderful members of the PPC (minus Christopher Gorman)

As a representative of the South, I thought it would be fitting to bring something with true southern roots. So I made these delicious red velvet bars. Exactly the same as red velvet cake but more portable and party-friendly sized. So yummy, just like anything slathered in cream cheese frosting.

Red Velvet Bars

  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder 
  • 1 ounce red food coloring (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoons salt
  • Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows

(1)  Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Butter and flour an 8″x8″ baking pan.
(2)  In a small bowl, slowly stir together the cocoa powder, food coloring, and vanilla into a thick paste until no lumps of cocoa remain. Set aside.
(3)  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
(4)  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
(5)  With the mixer off, add in the cocoa mixture, then turn the mixer to medium and beat the two mixtures together until they are one uniform color. (Be careful not to get ‘red-handed’!)
(6)  Slowly add in the flour and salt and mix on medium-low speed, just until combined.  Do not overmix.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir up the batter with a rubber spatula once or twice just to ensure all of the flour has incorporated from the sides of the bowl and there isn’t anything stuck on the bottom of the bowl.  You’ll want one uniformly colored red batter.
(7)  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the brownies.  Allow brownies to completely cool in the pan on a baking rack, about 45-60 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

(1)  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and cream cheese until soft and fluffy.
(2)  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in powdered sugar ½ cup at a time; allow the sugar to mix in before adding the next ½ cup.
(3)  Once all of the sugar has been added, add the vanilla and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
(4) Frost brownies in the pan, cut into 12 bars, and serve, or remove the entire batch from the pan to a cutting board, cut into 12 bars, frost, and serve.

Oh how I love the holidays! And tomorrow evening I will be heading to the best place to spent one’s holiday season… HOME!!! I am just so excited. Because as much as I love my grown-up Christmas, there’s nothing like being a kid on Christmas morning!

xo Margaret

Pie-fest 2011: Part 2

You honestly can’t go wrong with apple pie. It’s the Little Black Dress of desserts. Dress it up with a crumble or caramel topping or keep it simple with a few slits poked on top. This Thanksgiving, I decided to add a little flair with a lattice-top which looks impressive yet is much easier than it seems (step-by-step process shown below). Make sure to eat it à la mode to finish off this polished dessert!

Latticing in progress…

Classic Apple Pie

  • 2 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 4 medium)
  • 1 pound McIntosh/Fuji apples (about 2 large)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • ¾ cup + 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 full recipe of Pie Dough

(1)  Preheat oven to 350° F.
(2)  Peel, core and slice the apples. Place them in a large bowl.
(3)  Add the lemon juice, zest, ¾ cup sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice to the apples. Gently toss together until all the apple slices are completely coated. Set aside.
(4)  Take one round of the pie dough and roll onto a lightly floured work surface to a 12 inch disk. Transfer the dough to a pie plate by rolling dough around a rolling pin and unrolling over a 9-inch pie plate or by folding the dough in quarters, then unfolding onto the pie plate. Ease the dough into pan corners by gently lifting dough edges with one hand while pressing around the pan bottom with the other hand. Leave the excess dough that overhangs the lip of the pie plate.
(5)  Place the apples into the pie plate, making sure to discard any excess liquid at the bottom of the bowl.
(6)  Roll out the second piece of dough into a 12-inch disk.
For a non-lattice top: Place over the top of the apple filling. Press the edges of the top and bottom crusts together and trim the edges leaving a ½-inch border beyond the pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that the folded edge is flush with the pan lip. Flute the edge or press with fork tines to seal. Cut 4-5 slits on top of the pie.
For lattice top: Cut the rolled out pie disk into 14 strips. Then take every other strip and place evenly across the top of the apple filling. Fold every other strip on top of the pie back and place a remaining strip on top going in the opposite direction. Then alternate and fold back the other strips on top of the pie. Place another strip in between going the opposite direction. Continue until all the strips have been used. Press the edges of the top and bottom crusts together and trim the edges leaving a ½-inch border beyond the pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that the folded edge is flush with the pan lip. Flute the edge or press with fork tines to seal.
(7)  Brush the top with water and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar on top.
(8)  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

Makes 10-12 servings

Sadly, Thanksgiving is now over. I am back in the Big Apple (pun intended), but I already miss being home. I’m excited, though, to see this city for the first time in all its winter holiday glory, which I hope includes lots of SNOW!

Pie-fest 2011: Part 1

For most people, Thanksgiving is all about the turkey. For me, it’s the PIE. Since I can remember, I’ve been helping make our pies every year, from mixing the filling to pinching the fluted edges. In recent years, my sister Christine and I have been charged with full pie-duties. That includes everything from making the pie dough to removing the finished product from the oven. And this year, with my new fangled camera, we were a bit giddy in documenting as Christine calls it, the ‘journey of each pie.’

I’ll start the first part of this journey with pecan pie, which I see as the epitome of Thanksgiving. The thing is… I hate pecans. For me, they provide mere decoration on an otherwise delicious pie. And yet I take my pecan pie decorating very seriously. Over the years, Christine and I have developed two very distinct methods:

method #1: the Abstract (for the free-spirited Christines of the world)…

action shot!

and method #2: the Concentric (for the meticulous-minded Margarets).

sorted pecan halves

Either way you do decorate it though, your pecan pie will taste great and look beautiful 🙂

Pecan Pie

  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup pecan halves, chopped if desired
  • ½ recipe of Pie Dough, recipe follows

(1) Preheat oven to 350° F.
(2) Take the pie dough and roll out on a lightly floured work surface into a 12 inch circle. Transfer the dough to a pie plate by rolling dough around a rolling pin and unrolling over a 9-inch pie plate or by folding the dough in quarters, then unfolding onto the pie plate.
(3) Ease the dough into the pan corners by gently lifting the dough edges with one hand while pressing around the pan bottom with the other hand. Trim the excess dough by leaving a ½-inch edge overhanging the lip of the pie plate. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that the folded edge is flush with the pan lip. Flute the edge or press with fork tines to seal. Set the pie shell aside.
(4) In a large bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients.
(5) Pour into the unbaked pie shell. Arrange/sprinkle the pecans on top of the filling.
(6) Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes 8-10 servings

Homemade pie dough intimidates people… myself included. For many years, I just used pre-rolled pie dough. But let me tell you, making it yourself really makes all the difference. The key is to keep the butter cold, not adding too much water to the dough, and making sure to keep your surface well floured when rolling out the dough. Prayer helps too.

Smitten kitchen has a great pie dough tutorial, which I would highly suggest reading before starting. Soon you’ll be a smug pie pro in no time!

Pie Dough

  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold

(1)  Fill a 1 cup liquid measuring cup with water and drop in a few ice cubes, set aside.
(2)  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.
(3)  Dice the 2 sticks of butter into ½-inch pieces. Sprinkle over the flour mixture.
(4)  Use a pastry blender and begin cutting the butter into the flour, using it to scoop and redistribute the mixture as needed so all parts are worked evenly. When all the butter pieces are the size of tiny peas—stop! You want to still have visible chunks of butter left.
(5)  Drizzle ½ cup of the ice-cold water over the butter and flour mixture. Using a rubber spatula, gather the dough together. You may need an additional ¼ cup of cold water to bring it together but add it a tablespoon at a time (I used about a total of 6-8 tablespoons).
(6) Once you’re pulling large clumps with the spatula, take it out and get your hands in there. Gather the disparate damp clumps together into one mound, kneading them gently together.
(7)  Divide the dough in half, and place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Shape into a disk.
(8)  Let the dough chill in the fridge for one hour before rolling it out.
Note: Dough will keep in the fridge for about a week and in the freezer longer. If not using that day, wrap it in additional layers of plastic wrap to protect it from fridge/freezer smells.

Makes enough dough for one double-, or two single-crust pies

Think you’ve had enough pie?? Ohh think again! If the title of this blog post didn’t make it obvious, this pie journey has only begun. Pie-fest 2011: Part 2 to come soon…

Vegan Black Bean Brownies

Some things seem just too good to be true… like free used mattresses or CD’s that help you master a new language in 30 days. That’s because they usually are. This is how I felt when I first saw this brownie recipe. Delicious fudgy brownies made with no oil, no eggs, and no dairy?? How is this possible?!

I was skeptical but intrigued for the secret ingredient in these vegan brownies is… BLACK BEANS. I know, seems too good to be true, right?

one of these things is not like the other...

Well, I’m happy to tell you that in this case, my doubts have been cast aside. As far as brownies go, I like the kind that are a bit crispy on the edges and chewy on the inside with that slight crinkly layer on top (corner pieces are my favorite!). These Black Bean Brownies, however, are more the moist-and-fudgy type, and yet I still ate 4 of them so… there you go. Plus it was so fun surprising my co-workers who seemed truly amazed that there were actual legumes in their chocolate treat. Make them for your vegan friends, or make them if, like me, you want to have your suspisions subdued.

At this point, there's no going back

Vegan Black Bean Brownies
adapted from

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup cocoa
  • 2 tsp instant coffee
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of chopped walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts (if you like that kinda thing)

(1)  Preheat the oven to 350° F.
(2)  In a large bowl, add the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, cocoa powder and coffee; whisk together. 
(3)  Drain a can of black beans and rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear.  Return the black beans back to the can and fill with cold water.  In a blender, puree the beans and water until completely smooth. 
(4)  Add the black bean puree to the dry mix along with the vanilla and extra cup of water.  Stir to combine.
(5)  Pour the batter into a greased 9×13 pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan around halfway through.  When the brownies are finished they should be firm in the center and the edges will be slightly puffy and starting to pull away from the sides.  It’s important not to overbake in the oven because they will keep baking once you take them out.
(6)  Let brownies cool completely then cut into about 35 small squares.

Autumn in New York

No, I’m not talking about that terribly sappy movie with Richard Gere and Winona Ryder. Though, I could never really bad-mouth Winona as Little Women has been, since 5th grade, my go-to rainy day movie.

Conservatory Water in Central Park

Actually, the origins of my last name Choo (추) mean ‘Autumn’ or at least that’s what my mom has always told me. Regardless, I like to think that’s why I have such an endearment for the fall season. I love watching the weather cool down, the leaves change colors and the consumption of any and all fall desserts. Treats that incorporate the bounties of fall like apples, cranberries and of course… pumpkin!

This past week, one of my roommates made these delicious pumpkin chocolate chip & pecan cookies. They were so perfect for the crisp fall weather. When I asked her for the recipe, she told me she got it off this site wait WHAT?! these cookies are delectable AND low fat?? Praise the pumpkin gods!

I decided to make a batch of these deceptively delicious cookies for my workplace, which seems to be riddled with all things mini-cupcaked and fun-sized. The only adjustment I made was to omit the pecans cause I’m not a huge fan of them (who eats pecan pie without the pecans?… guilty.)

Just check out the step-by-step photos for these Pumpkin Spiced Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

 then ADD…

 math can be so fun.

Pumpkin Spiced Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (low fat)
adapted from

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup unpacked brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 tablespoons canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup chopped pecans (optional)

(1)     Preheat oven to 350°; line two baking sheets with parchment paper or use a silpat.
(2)     In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pumpkin spice and cinnamon.
(3)     In a large bowl, with a mixer, cream together the butter and the sugars on medium speed.
(4)     Add the egg, followed by the pumpkin and vanilla extract.
(5)     Working by hand, stir in the flour mixture and the oats until just combined and no streaks of flour remain; stir in the chocolate chips.
(6)     Drop 1 tablespoon of the dough at a time onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until cookies become light brown at the edges.
(7)     Cool on baking sheet for 3 or 4 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 32 cookies, 1 tablespoon each

These were such a hit at work! not a crumb left in sight (unfortunately). I HIGHLY recommend making them. like NOW.

Pucker up!

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But what the heck do you do with limes?! That’s precisely the problem I found myself in this weekend with a bundle of limes on my hands.

Luckily I love limes, possibly even more than lemons. Key lime pies, limeades, margaritas, mojitos 🙂 With my limes, I decided to make these lime bars, a variation on my favorite lemon bar recipe. But honestly when you add butter, sugar, eggs and flour to anything, what wouldn’t taste good?

Lime Bars
adapted from Barefoot Contessa

  • ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 large eggs at room temperature
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated lime zest (4 limes)
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (6 to 8 limes)
  • 1 cup flour
  • confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

(1)  Preheat the oven to 350° F.
(2)  For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the flour and salt, with the mixer on low, to the butter until just mixed.
(3)  Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9x13x2-inch baking sheet, building up a ½-inch edge on all sides.
(4)  Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly golden. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
(5)  For the filling, in a large bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, lime zest, lime juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
(6)  When ready to serve, dust the top with confectioners’ sugar and cut into squares.


some things are just M.F.E.O.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies get no love. except from me.

I understand, they’re not the prettiest cookies, they’re somewhat healthy, and there’s nothing more disappointing than biting into what you think is a delicious chocolate chip cookie only to be fooled by some impostor raisins! But when I was at the MAC store on Thursday for Fashion’s Night Out, they were handing out these tiny cookies on silver platters. Instead of opting for the chocolate-chocolate chunk or the snickerdoodle, I went in for the oatmeal raisin… And since that morsel, I have been craving oatmeal raisin cookies non-stop!

So what better way to inaugurate my new kitchen than with this yummy Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookie recipe! I’m still slowly settling into my new apartment. My bedroom is in need of a major makeover (which I will probably post about soon) but for the first time ever I have my own bathroom and my roommates are so sweet. The location is also close to the Met so I’ve been walking to work everyday!

I foresee lots of happy memories (and tummies) coming from this kitchen.

These oatmeal raisin cookies are super easy to make. You don’t even need a mixer, just a good wooden spoon, some elbow grease and plenty of LOVE.

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

  • ½ cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt 
  • 1 ½ cups quick-cook rolled oats
  • ½ cup raisins

(1)  Preheat oven to 350°F.
(2)  In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together, set aside.
(3)  In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. Slowly stir the flour into the butter/sugar mixture. Add in the oats and raisins.
(4)  At this point you can either chill the dough for an hour in the fridge and then scoop it, or scoop the cookies onto a sheet and then chill the whole tray before baking them. You could also bake them right away, if you’re impatient (like me!), but I do find that they end up slightly less thick.
(5)  The cookies should be two inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake them for 7 to 8 minutes (your baking time will vary, depending on your oven and how cold the cookies were going in), taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top.
(6)  Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies


does this count as dinner??