Chocolate, Oatmeal and Apricot cookies

Chocolate, Oatmeal and Apricot Cookies

Chocolate, Oatmeal and Apricot Cookies

By Lydia Ellison

When my Martha Stewart Living magazine arrives in the mail each month I have a special ritual. I make tea and snuggle on my sofa with my magazine and some sticky tabs and get lost in the pages of eggshell blue excellence. Last month I received my March issue and read it in this aforementioned fashion and when I got to the last page, the “Cookie of the Month” page, I was struck by inspiration. I got up off my sofa and went to the market so I could immediately make cookies (this is very rare, I hardly ever bake.)

Now I should admit I had been craving oatmeal cookies for awhile… I am an oatmeal-raisin person, not usually an oatmeal- chocolate cookie person but the MSL March “Cookie of the Month” was the perfect balance between the two, Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Apricots and White Chocolate! It sounded amazing and I had all the ingredients except for white chocolate and apricots. I made them with gluten free baking mix instead of regular flour (most oats are gluten free) and they worked perfectly! Moist and fluffy on the inside and crunchy and crisp around the bottom and edges.  I substituted half the white chocolate with unsweetened dark chocolate to cut the sweetness of the white chocolate and cut down the vanilla extract but added my signature almond extract instead. They were fantastic! Drew and I ate 3 cookies each right before dinner (in lieu of a salad course you could say) and later that evening our friends devoured the rest of them at a Top Chef viewing and never once suspected they were gluten free. Success.

You can of course make them with normal flour if you and your loved ones are not sensitive to gluten.

Chocolate, Oatmeal and Apricot Cookies

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe

Makes about 4 dozen (I froze half the dough and baked them off the next week)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or Gluten Free Baking Mix)
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs
4 ounces white chocolate chips
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
7 ounces dried apricots, preferably California, chopped (1 1/2 cups)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour (or GF baking mix substitute), oatmeal, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Cream butter and sugars with a mixer until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add salt, vanilla and almond extracts and eggs, and beat until well combined, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture gradually, beating until just combined. Stir in chocolates and apricots. Cover, and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.
2. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies are golden brown around the edges but still soft in the center, 14 to 16 minutes. Let cookies cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool. Cookies will keep, covered, for up to 1 week.

Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake


by Sarah Lagrotteria

I confess that I like making cakes even more than I like eating them.  There’s something about a perfectly smooth frosted cake just waiting for colorful candles, a dusting of coconut flakes or the perfect blooms that makes my heart flutter.   I love how pristine they look when all white or a deep dark chocolate. And the process of smoothing and re-smoothing frosting over the top and sides…it gives me chills.

While my personal cake preference runs toward chocolate or French almond cakes (or chocolate almond cake!) I think the best cake to make for a celebration is a strawberry whipped cream cake. You can use your favorite cake recipe (or cake mix, of which I mightily approve if you add some orange or lemon zest), and make this frosting in minutes.  Just be sure to have leave time for the finished cake to chill before your party starts.

Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake

Serves 9

1 9-inch round vanilla cake (can use pound cake or angel food, whatever you prefer), sliced horizontally into 2 layers

2 pints fresh strawberries, washed hulled and cut into thin slices

4 cups heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Note: Place strips of parchment paper along all 4 sides of the cake stand or serving platter, leaving the center of the plate open—it will look like an empty square.  These strips will collect any frosting that falls off the cake while you are frosting it so that your plate stays clean and your presentation perfect.

Place the bottom cake round on top of the parchment-lined cake plate.

Pour the heavy cream into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Turn the mixer to high.  Pour in the vanilla extract as the cream whips and gradually add the confectioners’ sugar.  Whip the cream into firm peaks.  If the cream gets too soft at any point during frosting, just whip it some more.

Add a generous dollop or two of the cream to the center of the cake and use an off-set spatula to spread the cream evenly over the top and sides of the cake.  The cream layer should be abundant, so feel free to add as needed.

Use half your strawberry slices to decorate the top of the cake round—I like concentric circles—then top the strawberries with a small dollop of cream.

Place the second cake layer over the cream and strawberries.  Add the remaining cream as needed to the top of the cake, smoothing the cream out and over the top edges and down the sides.  When the entire cake is coated with thick cream, hold the off-set spatula sideways at a 45-degree angle away from the cake, so the side of the spatula is just touching the cream.  Holding the spatula steady, slowly rotate your cake plate so that the spatula edge smoothes out the sides of the cake in one long sweep.

Use the spatula at an angle to smooth out the top of the cake and decorate as desired with the remaining berry slices.  Gently pull the parchment slips out from under the cake.  Chill until just before serving.

Raw Kale Salad with Apples and Currants



Hurray it’s kale season! This salad is so clean, bright and satisfying you will start keeping a bowl of it on your fridge to nibble on all the time. The hearty texture of the kale leaves “breaks down” in the lemon vinaigrette revealing a sweet, grassy nature. The apples and currents are a burst of sweetness, the nuts add crunch and the cheese brings the salty richness to the table. I made this last week and Drew and I fought over the last bowl which I snuck while he was in the shower!


Raw Kale Salad with Apples and Currants

Adapted from the recipe by Dan Barber in Bon Appetit

Serves 4


1 bunch Tuscan kale, washed, center rib and stems removed, leaves thinly sliced

1-2 apples, diced (I like Fugi)

¼ cup of currants

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon honey

salt and pepper

toasted slivered almonds (optional)

shaved parmesan cheese (optional)


Rinse kale in cool water and pat dry with a clean towel. Pull or trim the leaves from both sides of the center rib and slice the leaves into thin ribbons. Make a vinaigrette by dissolving a large pinch of salt into the lemon juice, adding the honey and fresh ground black pepper and then whisking in 1 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss the kale in the vinaigrette and allow to sit for 20 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Meanwhile chop the apple, toast the almond slivers and shave the parmesan. Add the apples and currants to the kale and mix well. Serve topped with shaved almonds and parmesan.


Raw, Vegetarian and Gluten Free. For a Vegan version, serve the salad with out the cheese.

Cheap & Chic Eats- Pho Cafe, Silvelake


by Lydia Ellison

At least once a week we go to the Pho Cafe down the street from our house on Sunset Blvd. It’s in a strip mall and doesn’t have a sign which really bothers Drew (he is irked by post modern pretensions.) However Vietnamese food is great for Drew’s gluten allergy, lots of protein, rice noodles and very little use of soy sauce. The decor is clean and modern and the food is fantastic. Light, flavorful and yet so satisfying. Best of all your average bill will be about $12 (cash only, come prepared.)

Last night we went with the gal pals and had a feast…

Not pictured are the great Vietnamese beers, limeade, coffees and teas they also offer. Run don’t walk to Pho Cafe!

Pho Cafe

Address: 2841 West Sunset Blvd.

Cross Street: Silver Lake Blvd.

Phone: (213) 413-0888

Hours: Daily 11am-12am

Sweet Mint Tea

Sweet Mint Tea

Sweet Mint Tea

by Lydia Ellison

My mom’s best friend is named Laura and she came into my life when I was 10 years old. I looked up to Laura so much as a young girl because she wore a hot pink bikini to sun tan in her suburban driveway on the weekends, she loved Madonna and she drove a white Camaro. My brother’s and I loved the nights when Laura would come over and her and my Mom would make shrimp and scallop stir fry for dinner (not the highlight of the night for me) and Laura would tell us animated stories about her day at work and let her brush her long hair. She was like our cool big sister.

Of course I am still thankful to Laura for teaching me the Vogue dance but more pertinent to my life these days is her recipe for Sweet Mint Tea. It was her Grandmother’s recipe and Laura always had a pitcher of it in her fridge. My mom has been making this tea to much acclaim for the last 15 years and always has a pitcher in her fridge now, made with fresh mint from her garden. Now that I am about the age Laure was when she first came into our life, I notice I too have a pitcher in my fridge at least once a week (though I use a natural sweetener instead of white sugar). Once you try this recipe you will too.

Sweet Mint Tea

makes 1 pitcher

2 or 3 bags of Black Tea (I like PG tips)

4-5 sprigs of fresh mint

the juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup of Agave syrup or 1/3 cup of sugar

Fill your pitcher with boiling water and add tea bags and mint sprigs and the Agave syrup or sugar and mix until dissolved. Allow to seep on the counter for 30 minutes. Remove the tea bags leaving all of the mint leaves in the tea and add the juice of one lemon stirring again. Allow the tea to cool down before you put it in the fridge overnight. The tea MUST chill overnight in the fridge where it will get slightly murky and fantastically potent. Serve over ice.



By Sarah Lagrotteria

I hereby add happily to the heaps of praise given to San Francisco’s Tartine Bakery. It’s my  favorite place to meet friends when I’m up north and I’m not ashamed to say that I usually go more than once (or twice) a weekend when I’m there. I love the mile-high quiche, which in this picture is stuffed with sweet corn and bacon—heavenly! Angus prefers the éclair, which has a rich and puddly vanilla crème—totally unlike the stiff pastry cream I remember from junior high French class. Check out their beautiful cookbook.


Southwestern Quinoa Salad


By Sarah Lagrotteria

Serves 6

I’ve been making this salad since my Ithaca days– usually with a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Lydia added the jicama, which makes it even more refreshing. Now that quinoa is back in vogue, we get many requests for this summer salad.

2 bone-in chicken breasts, roasted or 1 rotisserie bird

1 box quinoa (cooked according to directions on box), cooled
1 14-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 small red pepper, cut into small dice
1 small yellow or orange pepper, cut into small dice
Kernels from 3 ears summer corn
1 cup fresh jicama, cut into small dice
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 small red onion, cut into fine dice
1 cup crumbled feta cheese (can substitute cotija cheese)
1 large bunch of cilantro (about 1/2 cup), roughly chopped

Cumin Lime Vinaigrette
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 table spoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 1 tsp ground cumin
1-1/4 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil

Using your fingers or a fork, strip the meat from the chicken breasts (or rotisserie bird) and shred into bite-sized pieces. In a large bowl, gently combine the chicken, quinoa, beans and chopped vegetables (peppers through red onion). Add half the crumbled feta and half the cilantro and gently stir until mixed through.

In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, apple cider vinegar, cumin and 1/2 teaspoon each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Slowly whisk in olive oil, whisking continually until the dressing is emulsified. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste.

Add 3/4 of the vinaigrette to the quinoa salad and stir to combine. Top with the remaining feta and cilantro and serve with remaining vinaigrette on the side.

Tri-color potato salad with fresh herbs and shallot vinaigrette


By Lydia Ellison
Serves 8 as a generous side

Our favorite summer side dish. It’s even better the next day.

• 3 pounds tri-colored baby or new potatoes (Trader Joe’s sells mixed bags of yellow, red and purple which work beautifully). Can also substitute yellow or red or combination of both.
• 2 tablespoons kosher salt
• 1-teaspoon Dijon mustard
• 2 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar
• 2 shallots, finely diced
• 8 tablespoons good quality extra-virgin olive oil
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
• 2 bunches fresh dill, roughly chopped

Wash and clean the potatoes. Cut them in half or quarters to that all pieces are approximately the same size and approximately 1-1/2 inches. Place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a rolling boil and add 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Let boil until knife tender, approximately 8 minutes. Drain and place back in the pot, covering with a lid, so that the potatoes stay warm until they are dressed.

While the potatoes are boiling, whisk together the mustard, vinegar and shallots.  Add the olive oil in a slow steady stream, whisking continuously so that the vinaigrette emulsifies. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the vinaigrette over the drained hot potatoes using a spatula to gently turn the potatoes so that the vinaigrette coats them all. Even working gently the potatoes will begin to mash slightly at the edges, but that is ok. This is not a firm potato salad in which each potato remains autonomous—it should be a bit soft. Let the dressed potatoes cool to room temperature.

Reserving some of the herbs for topping the plated dish,  Generously sprinkle the potato salad with the chopped herbs, gently mixing so that every potato bite will have some herbs. Scoop the potatoes into a serving platter and top with the reserved herbs. Enjoy chilled or at room temperature.

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