How My Kitchen Helps My Relationships + A Cookie Recipe

I’m getting ready to pack up my kitchen. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll put my gadgets, my baking pans, and my dishes in boxes and let them rest quietly in the dark for three months. I like to mentally prepare myself for big changes such as this, so recently I’ve been thinking about my kitchen and its role in my life.

Here’s what I’ve decided:

This (small) room seriously bolsters my relationships with other people. It’s good for my marriage and its good my friendships.

I sort of already knew that kitchen was a sacred space for my marriage. When I get home, after I drop all my stuff, it’s my first stop because I want some cookies -- I mean fruit -- so it becomes the room in which my husband and I recap our days. I like to hop up on the counter when we’re chatting, so I’m not in the way as he brews a decaf espresso. These talks are brief. They are joyous and silly. They bring us back together after we’ve had separate adventures for the day and they feel great.

In the evenings, on the days we cook dinner, we turn on some music and roll up our sleeves. We’re working toward sitting down together to eat before we get too hangry (or before I rush out the door to my evening aerial class). Cooking still always feels hard at the start, as if the recipe will never be conquered. But we get into a rhythm. Then, before I know it, it’s time to eat. The atmosphere we create is warm (physically and emotionally!) and it’s centered around the kitchen. Yes, sitting down to eat is rewarding, but the cooking process is another form of reward.

 

My kitchen is not a one-relationship room. It has helped me build many friendships in my adult life. The role of the kitchen has become an established pattern in these friendships.

It starts off with sharing food. A proven way to make new friends is to bring them something you just baked or cooked! Extras you just had “laying around.”

Then, it’s talk: Oh you like cooking too? Do you like baking? What do you like to make? How do you feel about parchment paper?

After that, it's recipe sharing. Maybe this is cookbooks lent to friends or links sent via email. Or discussions of a recent recipe on a favorite cooking blog. Why yes, I JUST tried the latest recipe on SmittenKitchen!

But then, and here’s where it gets really important, comes the sharing of food created in the kitchen. Having friends over for a meal. Getting together to cook a particular recipe. Taking a cooking class. Or an afternoon of baking and catching up. All excellent ways to keep up friendships.

It wasn’t until I looked around my kitchen that I realized how important each utensil and measuring cup is in building my relationships and keeping them nourished. I’ll miss creating food while my husband and I are traveling for three months and I’ll miss my friends! : (

But I know I’ll build new kitchen memories soon enough.

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Here’s a delightful tea cookie recipe I made with a friend on a recent baking afternoon. Small, slightly sweet with a touch of salt, and with enough interesting flavors to make them count as a snack instead of dessert. Try making them with a friend or bake them alone and share them – a way to bring joy to your January!

 

Rooibos Tea Cookies
From Food52.com

Makes 36

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rooibos tea leaves (about 5 tea bags)
  • 1 vanilla bean, whole, ends trimmed, cut into segments OR 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste 
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons milk
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (or brown sugar)

Directions:

  1. Heat a small pan over medium heat. When pan is hot, add rooibos, and shake pan to distribute tea into a single layer. Toast for about 2-4 minutes, until tea is fragrant but not darkened. Depending on your leaves, this may happen much more quickly; watch it carefully. When leaves are fragrant, transfer them to a bowl and let cool for a couple minutes.
  2. Combine the sugar, vanilla bean, and rooibos in the bowl of a food processor and pulse for about 2 minutes, until there are no chunks of bean left in the bowl. Add the powdered sugar, flour, and salt to the bowl and pulse a few times to combine. Then add the milk, vanilla, and butter and pulse several times, until a dough forms.
  3. Turn dough onto a very lightly floured surface, gather it together, and roll it gently into a log 1.5-inches in diameter.
  4. Sprinkle turbinado sugar on a plate or work surface, and roll cookie dough log in the sugar, making sure to cover the entire surface of the log with sugar, pressing it in as you go. The sugar may not stick on its own, but that’s okay, just get as much on as you can.
  5. Wrap log in plastic or wax paper and transfer to the fridge or freezer for at least 30 minutes to chill.
  6. When ready to bake, turn on the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Remove log from fridge or freezer, and cut 1/3-inch slices off the log, rotating the log as you go to ensure that cookie slices stay round. Transfer cookies to the prepared baking sheet, leaving 1/2 inch between each (they don't really spread, but they need breathing room to crisp up). Bake for 12 minutes, until cookies are just starting to brown. Leave on the cookie sheet to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to racks.
  8. Enjoy!