First of all, It’s been two months since my last post and I am so sorry! The truth is I don’t have a terribly good excuse. Sure I’ve been busy, but not more so than usual. I’ve been baking and cooking consistently, but completely lacked the motivation to write up a post about it. I slumped into what could best be described as a “funk” when it came to my attitude towards blogging. It went on so long I actually had time to think of a few reasons for it and I've done my best to articulate them today.
For one, moving to Thailand and into a teeny tiny condo kitchen was a big adjustment. My countertops were probably designed by/ installed by people substantially shorter than me because being at the counter or sink for an extended amount of time actually gives me backaches unless I get into a lower position by straddling my legs. There are no outlets in the kitchen itself, I have to plug any appliances I want to use in the same outlet as the refrigerator on the opposite wall. The vent that comes down over my two-burner cooktop is also lower than eye level and right in my line of sight so I often hit my head on it while cooking or have to duck underneath it to see what is in my pan. Sometimes I feel like I’m cooking in one of those toy plastic Fisher-Price kitchen set-ups for toddlers.
Then there is the plain and simple fact that most Asians don’t really use ovens. Think of most Asian desserts— usually pan fried on a single burner or involving rice, fruit or pudding-- rarely requiring an oven. I opted to skip on a microwave (my husband and I have actually never owned one) and splurge for a “high end” and really quite pricey mini oven that fits in the same space intended for a microwave. Essentially a toaster oven that claims to offer convection, the reality is it can bake one loaf pan, one mini sheet of cookies, or 6 muffins at one time— but even then, it often overheats, one of the heating elements on the top or bottom decides to take a break and I am left with inconsistent results or uneven baking.
I preface all these complaints by saying that condo living in Thailand is actually luxury living and this is considered a luxury kitchen. So In reality I should be grateful. But it’s just such a change from having countertops that were actually intended for people my height or full-size ovens that reliably held at the temperature they were set to. Things I will never take for granted again. I miss my Blend-tec, my Kitchen Aid mixer, having a dishwasher… Not to mention--brands of ingredients, locations they are imported from, and ways they are measured ( i.e. grams vs ounces, kilos vs pounds) are completely different here and there’s been a learning curve figuring out which products to buy because they taste the most “familiar” or close to what I had hoped for.
All these frustrations, though undoubtably part of the process of moving to another country and totally normal, left me feeling like I lost my baking mojo. How could I possibly give others instructions on how to do something when I can barely do it myself? Now it’s not that everything I’ve made in my new kitchen has been a failed attempt—I’ve also had some real successes, but the overall difficulty of making anything with my kitchen set up left me feeling discouraged and embarrassed, less like someone who could lead others to culinary success.
Around the time all this was happening, I also got my first really mean comment from a perfect stranger on my blog, and while my husband assured me this is actually a good thing (“Babe, this means that people other than your friends and mom are reading this!”) I failed to see it that way because I’m a total baby. I have never been one to pretend that what people say or think doesn’t affect me. Just one comment and it ate away at me for days. It made me wonder if I’m even cut out for this at all. You can’t be open to the public as a blogger and not be ready for criticism or accusations or any other things cyber bullies or people who feel protected and emboldened behind the anonymity of a keyboard might decide to say to you. It made me wonder, why am I even doing this? Sure, when I started this blog I had hopes it would one day turn into a small business and I could use it as a means to help support my family by doing something I love, but it is a long road to achieve that level of success. Right now, I’m not making any money but still recipe testing, documenting the process, taking photos, editing them, and writing about them which takes a LOT of time. When I write a recipe and publish it, I am holding myself accountable. It’s actually a lot of pressure. Why am I doing all this work for free just so mean people can tell me I’m not smart enough or talented enough to do it?
These are the thoughts that were going through my brain.
Hence the two month break from blogging.
Basically, I was deciding if I wanted to keep going with it.
But I decided I do!
So here I am.
I realize that for every negative comment I may rarely get, I receive dozens of positive ones. I have readers and followers message me saying they absolutely loved a recipe they tried, that it was a game changer or their husband was so impressed by it or it was a hit at their family reunion. It absolutely makes my day. The struggles I am going through as a result of moving to a new place and making a less-than-ideal situation work will just make me a stronger, more adaptable cook. Its made me more understanding of the challenges and frustration many people associate with cooking and baking, more interested and appreciative of simple recipes that don't require a lot of gadgets, machines, dishes, or counter space.
Hopefully it endears readers to see that not all food bloggers have massive kitchens with miles of marble counter, top of the line appliances, or the most ideal photography set-ups. Some of us are just normal people, not professionally trained as chefs or photographers, just making it work with what we have. I photograph my food on my cheap, white bedside table that I have to drag out to the living room where I have the best lighting or on a large piece of grey tile that I bought from the home store here and didn’t realize the challenge of getting it home with me until my husband reminded me we don't have a car. We have a Honda PCX scooter. But I carried that massively heavy tile home with me, shifting the weight between my arms and resting it on my thighs all the way home on the superhighway… on a scooter.
Because I care about my blog. I care about making food that is both yummy and beautiful and sharing it with all of you. I’m not going to quit, I’m just going to learn to be tougher. More determined. More candid and open about the struggles.
If you got this far in my little blurb, I commend you. Thank you so much for your support. You're really the only reason I’m doing any of this.
Okay so about these cookies…
I was raised by health conscious parents in Southern California where my Dad shopped at Trader Joe’s before it was the cool thing to do or the mega empire it is today. Back when it was still all Birkenstocks and man ponytails and granola, before they carried fresh produce and all the hip moms got on board. When I was little, if I wanted dessert, I was often given just a small bowl of all-natural peanut butter and honey. Sweet and salty, the best combo, but still healthy. I would swirl them together to a point where the two were not completely incorporated, but there were ribbons of honey in every peanut-buttery bite. The combination of the two is not only nostalgic, it’s just plain delicious.
Fast forward to when I’m 17 and eating trail mix like normal, my face blows up like a balloon, my eyes swell shut, and my throat tightens to a point where breathing is labored. Testing confirmed: out of nowhere, my body developed an anaphylactic allergy to nuts. I was devasted. But as it turns out, peanuts aren’t a nut, they are a legume. That’s right: I have the allergy in reverse to just about everyone with a nut allergy— I CAN eat peanuts, but absolutely no tree nuts. Sure, I miss almonds and pistachios and cashews and macadamias, but honestly, I’m okay with it as long as peanuts are still on the table. Its like my body knew, getting this girl to stay away from spoonfuls of peanut butter and honey will be just too hard, she’ll probably end up killing herself somewhere down the line, so let’s throw her a bone.
Enter peanut butter & honey pretzel cookies.
Basically that little bowl of healthy dessert nostalgia turned baked, salty treat with crunchy bits. Because now I’m an adult and can eat cookies whenever I want. Muhahahahaha.
These are extremely addicting, because surprisingly enough, they aren’t overly rich. They have a crispy edge, but have soft exterior. They are dense like any good peanut butter cookie should be in my opinion. I opted for chunky peanut butter to add a textural component along with the pretzels. There is most likely salt on the pretzels and in the peanut butter you use, so feel free to skip the sprinkles of additional salt on top. We are salt fiends in this house but realize not everyone goes as overboard as we do.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
1 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup honey
1.5 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup salted pretzels, crushed into 1/2 inch pieces or smaller
1 tsp flaky salt for finishing, if desired *optional*
WHAT YOU’LL DO
Cream together the butter, peanut butter, and sugars until fluffy with a stand or hand mixer. Add in the eggs, beat again. Add the vanilla. In a separate bowl wisk the flour with the baking soda and powder. Add the dry to the wet and mix to combine.
Gently stir in the pretzels, trying to keep the crushed pieces in tact and then stir in the honey, not until its completely encorporated, but so there are thin but visible ribbons of honey throughout the dough. Place in refrigerator for 30 mins to an hour.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit/ 190 degrees celsius.
Use an ice cream or cookie scoop to measure out balls of cookie dough or roll in balls about 1.5 inches in diameter. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment, at least 2 inches apart from one another. Smash balls down slightly with the back of a flat spatula, or make the classic criss cross with the back of a sugar-dipped fork if desired. Optionally, sprinkle with additional sea salt.
Bake for 11-12 minutes* or until puffy but beginning to crack, and golden brown, especially around the edges.
*This number can vary from oven to oven, but thankfully most people seem to know their own ovens and if they run hotter or cooler than others. I’m afraid with my little oven I have to bake things longer than I know they should need and most of you will require. My guess would be in a normal, full size oven, these cookies will take 11-12 minutes, but in mine they sadly took 15 to16 mins because my mini oven is basically powered by a light bulb and prayers. But I don’t recommend that long for you because I don’t want you to overbake these! Everyone knows cookies are better with a slightly underdone interior.
These keep well in an airtight container for 2-3 days. Makes 20-24 cookies, depending on how much dough you eat.