Chai-Iced Pumpkin Cookies

I’d like to take a moment to talk to you about a serious addiction I had many, many years ago. Absurd amounts of money went towards supporting my habit. I would indulge at least once—and sometimes twice—a day. I’d sneak away during lunch breaks to get a fix. I even tried to drag my friends and co-workers into my world of obsession.

My addiction: Starbucks Pumpkin Chai Lattes. I know everyone is all about the pumpkin espresso lattes as soon as fall hits, but I’m telling you, pumpkin chai lattes are where it’s at. Imagine drinking a warm cup of extra-spicy pumpkin panna cotta—it’s that good. I’m going to stop myself right here before I go full throttle on the latte love, because this post is about cookies, not lattes!

Point is, I’ve become quite the coffee and tea snob since I moved to Vermont a few years ago. I turn my nose up at coffee that isn’t roasted locally. I want nothing to do with chai that comes from a box. I know, I know—groan if you must, but it’s an unavoidable side effect of having a barista brother who also roasts coffee at a local shop, and a boyfriend who manages the café at another. (I even feel the need to put the acute accent on the “e” in “café”—it’s that bad.) If it’s any consolation, I still load my coffee up with cream and sugar, so there’s hope that I may not become completely insufferable!

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Candy Corn Cake: Failure

Have you ever had an idea that you wanted to work so badly, you managed to drown out all the very logical reasons it might go wrong with one single thought: Man, this is going to be awesome! Allow me to introduce you to my idea: Candy Corn Cake.

Me and Candy Corn Cake, we were destined for greatness. It all started with a spree of cake successes. An epic rainbow cake. A festive German flag cake. A 6-layer pumpkin and chocolate cake with chai buttercream frosting (no picture available, due to me making it for my own birthday party, then dropping the majority of it on the floor after a few too many vodka tonics). I got greedy. I needed more pretty cakes! With Halloween just around the corner, candy corn was the perfect choice. I’d get me a bundt pan, divide a white cake batter into thirds, dye one yellow and one orange, then layer them all—white, orange, yellow—in the pan. For the first two layers, I’d stick the pan in the freezer, just to get the batter to stiffen up enough to keep the following layer from displacing it. Then I’d bring it back to room temperature, pop it in the oven, and an hour later, out would come Candy Corn Cake! Maybe I’d even go all out and cut it down into a more triangular shape before frosting. And then . . . then . . . I’d reveal Candy Corn Cake to the world! Fellow cake-lovers would marvel. Babies would squeal with delight. Even the grumpiest of old men would stoically nod and declare, “now that’s a cake.”

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Homemade Cheez-Its

I think it’s a widely agreed-upon fact that the typical “office-job” environment fosters terrible eating habits. The four years I spent working in an office could serve as a prime example of how someone should not treat their body. At my craziest, I was working between 50–60 hours a week, and allowing no time in my morning routine to eat breakfast or pack lunch. By 7:00 a.m., I’d be at my desk, mainlining coffee and grumbling out responses to emails as I typed them. Around 10:00 a.m., I’d take a break to chat with coworkers and devour an ungodly amount of cheese and crackers. (My department was never without several boxes of crackers and a block of cheese—a modus operandi I still live by, but practice on a slightly more subdued scale.) At least once a week, we’d take a trip to Panera for lunch and I’d justify buying a loaf of tomato basil bread to “take home,” which would then turn into a half hallowed-out bread shell before the day was done. And since I’d be working at least an hour or two late, 3:00 p.m. meant diet Coke and snack time. And any snack machine pro knows it’s worth it to spend the extra quarter on the Cheez-Its, because those 20%-snack/80%-air bags of chips and popcorn are for suckers.

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German Flag Layer Cake

I spent two weeks in Germany just over a decade ago. (Let’s pause for a moment so I can get over how old that sentence made me feel.) I had been to Europe the year before with a group from my high school, which was kind of a blur—an awesome, fun-filled blur—due to the amount of standard sight-seeing we had to cram in after some travel delays (which involved a night spent in Newark airport, a missed connection in London, and a severely jet-lagged me browsing through duty free shops like a zombie). To this day, the best $2 I have ever spent was on a shower in the London-Heathrow airport. But traveling to Germany on my own to visit friends who lived there was a completely different, uninsulated experience that allowed me to take in much more of what was going on around me. Why is all of this water fizzy? What is this delicious chocolate spread you eat for breakfast? How can something called “grey bread” be so good? Why does this beer go down like water? To this day, it baffles me when someone gives a hefeweizen the “yick” face and says it tastes like bananas. Whatever, man, more banana beer for me.

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