little paths so startled

living, decorating, and eating in hattiesburg, mississippi

Archive for August 2011

vegan spicy chocolate snickerdoodles

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Cinnamon, chili powder, and cayenne pepper give these cookies a spicy kick.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been baking up a vegan storm in preparation for the first annual English department cookie contest.  Each year we have a department lunch the day before classes begin to welcome returning and new faculty and graduate students, and this year, some summertime banter among colleagues led to the addition of the inaugural cookie contest to the department lunch.  (Specifically, I insisted that vegan cookies could hold their own against any non-vegan cookie, and the ensuing duel challenge became a department-wide contest.)  At my insistence, there was no separate category for vegan cookies, and there were five vegan entries (two of which were mine: the spicy chocolate snickerdoodles and these chocolate chip cookies).  Although our office manager’s non-vegan but fabulous ginger-butterscotch confections won the contest, all the vegan cookies were well received and quickly consumed.  I’m still counting it a victory for vegan baking, and these spicy chocolate snickerdoodles are a winner in my book.

The spices, ready for sifting with the flour.

This recipe is adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles (she also talks you through the recipe in a great video on the recipe page).  My only major change to the ingredients is the addition of chili powder, at the suggestion of our office manager (who is also a professional chef with years of experience and who graciously helped me with seasonings in the weeks before the contest).  As she put it, “you need the chili powder so people can taste the spice sooner.  You don’t want them to bite into the cookie, swallow, then feel the cayenne pepper in their throat and think they’ve been poisoned.”  And, she added, chocolate and chili are a time-tested pairing.  So I did exactly as she suggested and added a teaspoon of chili powder to the recipe.  I also cut the cayenne pepper from half a teaspoon to a fourth of a teaspoon.  As promised, it’s just the right blend of immediate spice and after-taste spice.

The wet ingredients should be whisked to a smooth caramel-like consistency.

Stir and fold in the dry ingredients ...

...until the dough looks like this.

Roll a bit of dough into a ball ...

...and press it into a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Then place it sugar-side up on the baking pan.

Et voilà. The perfect fall cookie. If only fall would come.


Written by Ann

August 25, 2011 at 11:03 am

impromptu new orleans

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Found: the elusive chest of drawers for the bedroom.

Our trip to the Big Easy yesterday was so impromptu, in fact, that I forgot my camera and thus missed many photo ops – the marvelously quirky antique and used furniture shops on Magazine (including The Creole Cottage, where we got the chest of drawers), de rigueur stops at Juan’s Flying Burrito and Whole Foods, a stroll through Audubon Park, and dinner with Daniel’s uncle, Earl, at Taj Mahal in Old Metairie.  I’d had a bit of a rough week, and Daniel knew just the remedy: the contagious energy of the city, retail therapy, and fabulous (!) Indian food with our favorite NOLA resident, whose avant-garde, treasure-filled bungalow always inspires me.

(A note on Indian food: why, Hattiesburg, why?  I was just talking to my colleagues about this on Friday.  Why is there no Indian restaurant in Hattiesburg?  Somebody, please, make that happen.)

I do, however, have photos of our new piece of furniture.  The decision came down to two contenders: a mid-century modern dresser at Peaches and the upcycled, antiqued chest of drawers from The Creole Cottage.  I love both stores, and I love both dressers, but in the end, Daniel wasn’t as keen on the MCM piece, and the price on the antiqued chest of drawers was simply unbeatable.  Luckily, it also fit in the Prius.

We love the antiquing details, with layers of light and dark blue paint peeking through the distressed white.

I created a space for this piece when I last rearranged furniture (seen here), but I think the space sort of overwhelms the chest, which was probably designed for a child’s room.  I’m still pondering this arrangement, but for now:

I have a feeling this piece, or something, is going to move. I'm just waiting on the inspiration. Until then, suggestions and ideas are welcome.

I did try it closer to the window, creating space for a bedside table or chair next to the bed.  I like this idea, but Daniel has (justified) qualms about the additional furniture purchase(s) this would necessitate.  In the meantime, however, we are delighted to have the clothing storage space, and I’m loving the airiness of all these shades and textures of white.

vegan whole wheat pancakes

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Who would guess that sweet, innocent looking pancake is both vegan and whole wheat? Flax eggs, coconut oil, almond milk, oh my!

Even though I do a terrible job of eating breakfast on weekday mornings, I love breakfast food.  Just not for breakfast, per se: brunch or dinner, preferably.  (In fact, we had breakfast food for dinner with friends earlier this week, and it was downright refreshing.)  Pancakes are one of my favorites, and they’re a lazy weekend morning staple chez nous.  They present a bit of a logistical difficulty for larger groups – or so I find – but they’re perfect for breakfast with house guests or breakfast for two.

They may not be the healthiest breakfast item, but I believe there’s a way to have my (pan)cake and eat it, too.  Of course I veganized them (flax eggs!), but I’ve also started using whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose.  Mark Bittman, upon whose recipe I based mine, doesn’t believe in using only whole wheat flour; he’ll allow replacing up to half the flour with whole wheat.  I quite like the taste and texture of whole wheat flour, and I especially like that it assuages my vague guilt for eating carbs – so I say go all in with the whole wheat flour.

So here’s the recipe: it’s quite simple, as it should be.

1. Put a teaspoon or two of coconut oil in the middle of a large skillet, and heat over medium-low.  (Why use boring old butter when there’s the magical hint of coconut flavor – plus myriad health benefits – to be had from coconut oil?)

2. Sift together 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a small mixing bowl.

3.  In a large mixing bowl, beat together two flax eggs (2 tablespoons of ground or milled flax seed + 6 tablespoons of water) with 1 1/2 cups almond milk.

4.  Gently stir in dry ingredients.  Just mix enough to moisten the flour; lumps are good.

Happy whole wheat flour. See, it's not that scary.

5. Add up to 1/2 cup more almond milk, or just enough to get the batter to a pourable/spreadable consistency.  Then it’s ready for the skillet.  You can take it from there, right?

Everyone has her own way of knowing when to flip - and how to flip for that matter. My method: make Daniel do it.

Once the pancake is out of the skillet, it’s best eaten immediately, of course – even if you’re still cooking pancakes with your other hand.  There’s the traditional maple syrup topping, and then there’s other fun stuff like agave, blueberry jelly, or, in this case, fig preserves.

Topping du jour: fig preserves. Wonderful. Pass me my mimosa!

Written by Ann

August 13, 2011 at 8:43 pm

furniture shuffle (again)

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My desk’s new and improved home. Domino effect of furniture shuffling, as seen below.

It always begins with cleaning.  When we got back from our Saturday brunch, we started cleaning and the next thing I knew, I was lugging my little desk up the stage stairs while Daniel (bless him!) was cleaning baseboards in the bedroom.  Neither of us really liked the desk where we first put it (see here).  And I haven’t liked the piano against the chalkboard since we moved it earlier this summer (see Phase III here).  Today, I was suddenly inspired with what we both think might be the solution to the awkward piano placement problem:

Putting the piano under the painting in the entry-area makes so much sense. I have no idea why it hasn’t occurred to me before.

The slim profile keeps the entry area plenty open. Bonus: I get to look at a gorgeous painting while I play.


But the furniture moving didn’t stop there.  Daniel wasn’t thrilled with the placement of his desk, either (see Phase I and Phase III here).  Nor have I liked Daniel’s standing desk on the same wall as the bed (also in Phase III).  So we replaced Daniel’s computer desk with the standing desk:

A better spot for the standing desk, with a much needed reorganizing of the shelves. Actually, we first placed this desk in the same corner, only on the chalkboard wall. It was the right place, wrong wall.

Daniel’s dissertation research binders (formerly perched on the too-small shelves of the standing desk) found a new home on the nook bookshelf, which was sparsely populated.


Daniel’s computer desk now occupies the landing/office area at the top of the stage steps, where the patio furniture once was.  (The patio furniture is now in storage in my grandmother’s garage.  I never liked it inside, and it was not an ideal desk for me.)  We think this will be much better in terms of lighting and general feng shui.

My Parisian café chair found a new spot, too.


I guess this constitutes Phase IV of furniture placement in our condo, and we’ve only been here 14 months.  Just as a writer’s work is never finished and a revision can breathe new life into old work, furniture arrangements are never final and a move can bring balance and satisfaction.  Most of the time, when I find myself frustrated with a piece of furniture and wanting to buy something new, I really just need to move that piece.

But there was another motive behind this furniture rearrangement.  We desperately need another chest of drawers.  We have somehow managed to share one modest-sized chest of drawers (seen here), stuffing workout and off-season clothes into boxes and shelves.  But with so little closet space, the chest of drawers is overworked, to say the least.  We’ve been (so far unsuccessfully) monitoring antique stores and Craigslist for a chest of drawers to put in this space:

The future home of the elusive chest of drawers. Until then, the lamp sits on the floor, and Daniel is without a bedside table.

I think a trip to New Orleans is in order.

Written by Ann

August 6, 2011 at 7:37 pm


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After a wild week of wrapping up the summer semester, then a delightful trip to Birmingham to visit my sister, I find myself in August – with three weeks until fall classes begin and less than a month until the deadline for my research article.  And Daniel’s summer is over for good: he starts teacher in-service tomorrow.  So what to do on this scorching last day of freedom?  We started with a routine weekly cleaning that turned into furniture rearranging that led to a visit to the Calico Mall, a fabulous antique mall here in downtown.  And this all culminated in two spontaneous purchases that bring a little vintage to our style and much needed functionality to our space.

Item 1: the New Home sewing machine table cum writing desk. Vintage perfection.

We saw this and we just knew.  I’ve been looking for an alternative to the patio table and chairs I’ve been using for home office space (see the arrangement here).  I wanted something small, low profile, with simple lines, and I had been considering this Parsons mini desk from West Elm.  But when the furniture started moving today, Daniel had a better idea: instead of ordering something, why not try a local antique store?  (Read: why not repurpose an existing object instead of contributing to consumerism and resource overuse?)  Daniel is my eco-conscience, and he’s so right.  I’m no seamstress, but I’ll happily write (and trawl the Internet) on this beauty.

Instead of covering the table top with glass, we simply stacked a few books on the sewing machine shelf to create a level base for my laptop. Yes, that's the Dictionary of Etymology. A good foundation, indeed.

I adore the little drawer pull (and the drawer).

Since this piece is occupying a prominent space in the living/dining room, I decided not to dedicate a chair to the desk - so it can be as much an objet d'art as a work space. Instead, I'm pulling up a chair from the dining table nearby.

And then there’s Item 2: the Parisian café chair.  As much as I would love to go to Paris and shop the flea markets there, the logistics of getting a piece like this home would be, well, un peu difficile.  Finding one here in Hattiesburg was serendipitous, indeed.  I’ll pretend Gertrude Stein sat in it on a little side street off La Place St. Michel.


The pièce de résistance of our entryway.

Coming soon: Daniel’s new office space (where the patio table once was) and re-rearranged furniture in the bedroom.

Written by Ann

August 3, 2011 at 10:34 pm