weeknight dinner: spaghetti aglio e olio

I came home this Monday exhausted from two weeks of travel in the Pacific Northwest. When I left New York, we hadn't fully decamped from our temporary summer home over in the Upper West Side. It was strange to come home to our brand new Brooklyn apartment, with its white walls still smelling like paint and construction dust. Having never spent a night there before leaving for my travels, the space felt like another hotel/airbnb/friend's couch.

But we're slowly getting there. There are corners that are Instagram ready (as long as you don't look outside the frame), and mementos from friends that are bringing colors to the walls. We've unpacked the boxes, Erlend's hung up the curtains, and I've color coded the kitchen cupboards (like a major dork). This space is slowly turning ours.

One thing that took us an embarrassing amount of time to do, however, was to cook our first meal there. With Jamaican patties and fried chicken a couple blocks from our doorstep, it's been easy to just fall back on meals eaten with plasticware from greasy takeout containers. And as much as I love eating out and ordering in, a house isn't really my home until I've made a mess of my own in the kitchen, dessert or otherwise.

Which is why instead of my usual baking recipe, I'm sharing this one for spaghetti aglio e olio. This was the first dinner that Erlend and I cooked together in our new apartment, and the first meal we ate with our own silverware and fancy new plates from Canvas Home. At first glance, the recipe, while comforting and tasty, is simple: just spaghetti tossed in olive oil, garlic, and chili flakes. It could easily be mistaken for just another boring weeknight recipe, and honestly — this is what makes it so special. With its comfort and simplicity, it tastes like home.

salad plates in grey and white || tidbit plate in grey || salad serving bowl || round serving bowl || kaffe tumbler in grey and white 

Thank you to Canvas Home for sponsoring this post by providing all the pretty plates and glasses that you see in the photos! I first fell in love with their collections last year, and I've since then decked out the open shelving system in my kitchen with the Shell Bisque collection! As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own; thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and my sponsors!

Some maker's notes:
  • Traditional spaghetti aglio e olio is made with traditional flour or semolina spaghetti. For our version, I used spaghetti made from farro to try and feel better about gorging during the food festival I attended this past weekend. Pastas made from different grains will yield a slightly different taste; whole grains will make it earthier, while regular pasta will be lighter in flavor. Whatever pasta you decide to go with, just adjust accordingly for its recommended cooking times and work with my recipe from there. Watch out though — the recipe actually requires you to initially undercook the pasta at the beginning!

  • Be sure to read the recipe in full and make sure to remember to reserve some pasta water for the final step in the recipe! Using regular water would work too, but the starchy pasta water makes it more creamy and flavorful.

mini funfetti donuts

Are you the kind of person who gets motivated or un-motivated after a vacation? I'm a big believer in taking vacations as early and often as possible in order to avoid burnout and maintain a healthy well-being. These days, however, I've been coming back from my vacations itching for more and not feeling the least bit restored. I've noticed that this has been a trend in the past few years — I blame social media and how it's made unplugging from the blog a near impossibility. So even though we've had a few long weekends and I've taken days off here and there, I'm still feeling a little burned out from it all.

On my first day back from my non-vacation of a vacation, I made these donuts in an attempt to get back into the groove of baking. Although I started out the process begrudgingly, my spirits had lifted considerably by the time I pulled out the first batch from the oven. Because mini donuts — who can resist them? Especially when studded with sprinkles and glazed with shiny chocolate. They literally seem like cheer in the palm of your hand!

These mini donuts come from Williams-Sonoma's new (also mini) cookbook, The Doughnut Cookbook. Small and mighty, it guides you through a variety of donut recipes that range from the basic yeast variety to more exciting baked flavor bases like carrot cake and these funfetti donuts. Even though baked donuts don't get as much love as the fried kind, I've always had a soft spot for them as they come together much more easily and are just as tasty.


Thanks Williams-Sonoma for sponsoring this post by graciously providing The Doughnut Cookbook and other equipment for my new Brooklyn kitchen to help me bake and cook. All thoughts and opinions are my own; thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and all my sponsors!

Some baker's notes:
  • I used this mini donut pan to bake my donuts, but you can also use a regular sized pan for the same recipe without needing to adjust the baking time. Be sure to use a lot of cooking spray in the donut cavities so that the donuts pop out with ease! 

  • Be sure to use the glaze IMMEDIATELY after making — it tends to harden quickly! If you like taking your time decorating, it helps to keep the chocolate glaze over a very, very low heat to prevent it from hardening while you decorate the donuts. Stir every minute or so to prevent the top from glazing.

potato salad hot dogs

Happy Labor Day Weekend, folks!

Summer's nearly over, but my travels are just getting started! Last week, there was a quick trip to Denmark for the Copenhagen Cooking & Food Festival, and an even quicker trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania to visit Chocolate World and bake in the Hershey Test Kitchen. Next week, there will be a short stop in Seattle before I head out on an apple picking trip in Washington State with one of my blogging besties, Molly Yeh. Then, we're hopping down to Oregon for Feast Portland!

I've been to Feast almost every year since it started, and it's been really fun watching the festival grow and become the crazyawesomesuccessful event it is today. The festival kicks off with Sandwich Invitational, where chefs from Portland and all around the country compete to make the best mini sandwiches ever. It's basically an outdoor picnic but bigger, better, and with more famous folks cooking away!

above - The People's Choice Sandwich Winner in 2015Chef Vitaley Paley's pork belly bahn mi on fry bread; below - The People's Choice Sandwich Winner in 2014Chef Tyler Malek's PBJ ice cream sandwich

Last year, one of my favorite restaurants in Portland, Olympia Provisions (formerly known as OlympiC Provisions before the IOC came after them for using "Olympic" — seriously guys?! maybe focus your energies instead on making sure athletes don't dope or make up lies about being mugged in this year's host city, but I digress) whipped up this crazy hot dog topped with potato salad and their famous charcuterie:

And, to get in the spirit of Feast, I thought it would be fun to make it at home for all the folks who missed out last year! Check out the recipe below, and get your stretchy pants on:

Thanks Feast Portland and Alaska Airlines by sponsoring this post by providing me with the travel and accommodations to attend Feast Portland this year! YOU can still make it to Feast too! Fly Alaska Airlines to Portland, Oregon for Feast festivities and save 10% on flights from any U.S. city served by Alaska Airlines (excluding Hawaii and Prudhoe Bay). Just click here, book by September 21, 2016, and you’ll automatically receive your discount. Applies to travel between September 12, 2016 and September 21, 2016. Restrictions apply, see site for details. Thanks for supporting Hummingbird High and all my sponsors!

Some maker's notes:
  • Soooo disclaimer: I'm a baker, not a cook. When it comes to baking, I'm precise to a fault. I make the same recipes over and over and take notes until I get it exactly right. When it comes to cooking... not so much. I tend to squirt an ingredient here and there without measuring things. I taste as I go and add more or less depending on what I feel like. I'm encouraging you to do the same for this recipe — everybody likes their potato salad differently. Some like it super mayonnaisey, others mustardy. You get to be the chef here and figure out how much of each flavor you want in your salad. Or if you can't stand my wishy washy instructions, check out Deb's more precise ones (I used her recipe as my guideline). Sound good? Let's go!


Last week, Copenhagen Cooking & Food Festival invited Adrianna of A Cozy Kitchen, Yossy of Apt. 2B Baking Co, and myself to Denmark for a few days to attend some of the festival’s events and check out Copenhagen’s amazing food scene. Have you ever been somewhere new and thought it felt like home? It was like Copenhagen combined all the things I liked from all the different places I’ve lived and put them all in one place! Think — lots of bikes, trees, good food, and friendly people. Here are some highlights and favorite moments from the trip below:

watermelon and mint agua fresca

As I write this post, the National Weather Service has issued an "Excessive Heat Warning" for New York state. It's 93 degrees in city. With the humidity, the weather reports tell me that it "feels like 106 degrees" outside. I can't tell you personally, because the last time I left the apartment was at around 8:00 AM (when it was still a balmy 88 degrees, ha) to dart around the corner to grab this watermelon and an onion bagel with scallion cream cheese from The Best Bagel Place in the Entire City.

I don't know what it's been like in other parts of the country, but if it's anything as hot as New York, I wouldn't be surprised if everybody's been avoiding their oven like the plague. What have you guys been doing to cool off? I've been eating bowls of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and drinking beverages like this watermelon and mint agua fresca:

I first discovered agua frescas at a Venezuelan restaurant specializing in arepas in my old neighborhood in Portland. However, agua frescas are actually Mexican in origin, and are basically fruit juices mixed with water and sugar (though you can also get a horchata flavored one made from a variety of rice, nuts, or other crazy things).

My favorite flavor has always been a pineapple and lime variation, but since watermelon is in season, I decided to make a watermelon one instead:

And real talk — there is no fruit more quintessentially summer than watermelon. This drink is basically all the good things about summer in a glass! Light, refreshing, and a wonderful vibrant pinkish-red (Seriously, what is that color?! Is that marsala?! It's a touch too red, no?), I'm proud to contribute this recipe to Sherrie's annual #drinkthesummer virtual cocktail party. Check out her blog and the hashtag for more summer recipe ideas!


Some maker's notes:
  • The amount of simple syrup you use will depend on how sweet your watermelon is and how sweet you like your drinks, which is why I've given a range for the amount of simple syrup used in the recipe. Be sure to taste as you go, adding simple syrup in small increments until you find your ideal level of sweetness.

  • So I made mine booze-free, but you can totally spike the shiz out of it like a cool kid. I recommend using it as a mix-in for a relatively mildly flavored booze like vodka, a non-hoppy pilsner, or even champagne.

rainbow chocolate nonpareil cookies

When I travel somewhere new, the first thing I do is check out a supermarket. I love roaming the aisles to discover new ingredients, snacks, and food traditions different than those in America. Like, did you know that you can get canned rhubarb and gooseberries in almost every supermarket over in England? Both are only available seasonally in the US, and both are rarely preserved in anything but jam form. In the Netherlands, sprinkles are sold in the breakfast aisle as hagelslag. Because over there, they eat sprinkles on buttered toast for breakfast! No wonder the Dutch are so happy.

And while it's not quite as exciting to visit a supermarket in a different state, there are still enough local varieties that make it worthwhile. I recently accompanied Erlend to one of New York's famous Fairway Markets and was excited by their selection, filling up my basket with all the East Coast things that are such rarities out on the West Coast. Martin's Potato Buns, those jelly fruit slices that are reallyreallyreally good, and plastic tubs of rainbow nonpareil discs.

I don't know why, but it's really hard to find rainbow nonpareil discs out west. You can get the black and white ones without a problem, but rainbow? Not so much. I really have no idea why, but I'm just happy to have found these. In a rare stroke of genius, I decided to swap them out with the chocolate feves I like to use in my chocolate chip cookies, resulting in these pretty, jewel-studded chocolate chip cookies. They're basically your beloved chocolate chip cookie, but SPRINKLED. The nonpareils add a wonderfully textured and unique crunch.

And a quick announcement before I leave you with the recipe: be sure to follow me on Instagram and Instagram stories the next few days! I'll be traveling to Pennsylvania to eat all the Kisses and kickoff a baking partnership with Hershey's, before hopping on a plane across the Atlantic to attend the Copenhagen Cooking & Food Festival with my dear friends Adrianna and Yossy. Get ready for all the chocolate and smørrebrød!

Thank you to Falcon Enamelware for sponsoring this post by providing the pretty plates, bowls, and tray that you see in these photos! I've always thought their products were the prettiest, and I can't wait to have their plates and tumblers displayed on my soon-to-be-set-up kitchen shelves. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own, and thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and my sponsors!


Some baker's notes:
  • You don't need to go to the East Coast to buy rainbow chocolate nonpareils; you can get them online! If all else fails, you can also use the more widely available black-and-white version (which they also sell at movie theatres as Sno-Caps, lol) — your cookies just won't be as colorful. 

  • I've portioned out the dough so that my batch made around ten HUGE cookies; each dough ball pre-baked weighed 3 ounces (yes, I actually weighed each ball because I'm crazy). You can divide that in half for 24 smaller cookies. Also, the recipe also doubles wonderfully!

you're still worthwhile

Last Monday, Saveur announced the finalists for Saveur's Best Food Blog Awards, and it seemed like the food blogging world exploded. There was the usual joy from the selected, the exchanged congratulations, but there was something new in the air too. Whispers that some finalists this year were undeserving, that the categories were bunk, and that Saveur was devaluing the hard work of blogging with certain selections. And of course, there was retaliation against those who were brave enough to say such things publicly: they in turn were met with accusations that the non-finalists were just jealous, bitter losers who were serving up sour grapes.

Oy vey.

First of all, a HUGE congratulations to everybody who is a finalist this year. I'm excited to see some of my blog friends up there, and to find out more about the blogs I don't know. I think Kati put it best — even if some of the finalists come as a surprise, it's important to remember that everybody has a different voice, style, and passions. And maybe the surprises are emblematic and a symptom of the world of blogging today. Because with everybody trying to emulate the successful blogs and finalists from previous years, it seems like we're all converging towards each other and becoming the same thing. Oh, you know what I'm talking about: the avocado toast on marble tabletops, the dark and moody chiaroscuro lighting of flowers, disembodied hands holding a dish of rustic food... all the variations of the aesthetic that we know does well and that people like. So maybe these blogs got their nomination because they are daring to do something different, and standing out from the rest of us.

Conversely, I know that it's easy to blame the feelings of ill-will being expressed about the finalists as simple jealousy and sour grapes, but I think it's much more complicated than that. As a finalist in the years prior, I recognize that some of the selections do feel like a blow to those who pioneered the style that is so popular today, and even to those who have worked hard to emulate it. Because some (not all, but certainly some) of Saveur's choices seem to have been made humorously and/or ironically, which greatly undervalues the hard work of ALL blogs, serious or otherwise.

Which brings me to this: one of the things that I dislike most about blogging is how we're all at the mercy of these larger entities that can seemingly "make or break" us. Instagram rolled out an algorithm that directly ties content visibility to engagement, forcing us all to post what we think will be popular in order to remain seen on people's feeds. Saveur decided to switch up the awards' criteria from the past years, ending up with new categories and selections that left a lot of people hurt and confused. It's all arbitrary, and none of it actually directly says anything about the quality of our work in general. We cannot be too reliant on these institutions—especially ones who care about nothing more than bringing in revenue, pageviews, and clicks—to determine our worth and give us cause to publicly tear each other apart.

Because while it's always a huge honor to get a nomination, or to hit 100k followers on Instagram, please know that your work isn't any less deserving because you haven't hit any of these milestones. If you're still getting enjoyment and joy from cooking, from writing, from practicing and learning more about photography — that in itself will ALWAYS be more valuable and worthwhile than a random badge on your site.