Chai Snickerdoodles

This recipe comes to you a bit out of order on my recipe list. In fact, I just made them this past weekend. But they’re so good that I cannot wait.

When I lived in Raleigh, I worked at a coffee shop called The Morning Times. Still probably the best coffee shop I’ve ever been in. Best Americanos I’ve ever had. We also made our own chai tea. It was a mixture of tea and spices, the one which I remember the most being ginger. I spent lots of time peeling and grating ginger for that tea, but it gave the end result such a nice bite.

These cookies are basically sugar cookies filled with all the spices that make chai tea so warm and autumn-y and delicious. They’d probably be really awesome with a cup of tea. They’d also be perfect for a holiday party. Not hard to make at all. I promise. And so festive and flavorful.

Continue reading

Ginger Chocolate Cookies

These past few weeks I’ve been too exhausted to cook or even really bake much. I’ve been eating out with my parents, eating over at my parents’ house, eating with my girlfriends, and sometimes throwing something together at home. I’m sure you know the feeling. Work is overwhelming, your personal life is a roller coaster, and standing in the kitchen becomes a chore rather than a joy. No one ever told me that being a beginning grown-up was so hard and tiring! Your college diploma should come with a big warning label: Hard times ahead. Forget staying up late to party or study. You won’t be able to make it past 10:30pm lots of nights. You think being independent will be cool and will involve having fancy drinks at fancy bars, buying awesome clothes, and decorating your first real apartment? Think again and this time include bills, rent, credit cards, food for your pets, gas money, food for yourself…and then swear that the only time you’ll look at your bank account is when you need a good cry. Oh and balancing your personal and work lives? They overlap. Work seeps into personal time, even if you don’t work long hours. It affects your personal relationships. Just…be prepared.

OK, so enough with the bitching about being a grown-up. The good part is that if you do come home from work one day and are craving cookies like woah, you can make a batch of cookies if you damn well please.

And these ginger chocolate cookies are the ones you should probably make. That’s what I did one Friday about a month ago. (shut up, I know I’m behind on posting!) They’re hella easy and you most likely have everything in your house.

Chocolate and brown sugar make cookies magical

(You may not have molasses, but you should probably buy some and keep your cabinet stocked with it always. It adds amazing depth and flavor to baked goods.) Kind of like chocolate chip cookies with a fantastic kick.

Continue reading

Iced Pumpkin Bread

This is a story of how I made my own pumpkin puree and how it was awesome and not scary. This is also the story of how I put the puree in things like my morning oatmeal and pumpkin bread.

Here’s a warning – do not get that pumpkin pie filling stuff. Use pumpkin puree for all your pumpkin cooking and baking needs. You can get it canned this time of year (and only this time of year. Why??), or you can make it yourself. I promise you up and down and all around that making your own is not hard to do. You will need a bit of time. I’d suggest making the puree either the day before you plan on actually using it and then storing it in the fridge, or just giving yourself a couple of hours for puree-making + using puree. All this recipe involves is cutting up the pumpkin into quarters, baking it, peeling off the skin, and pureeing it.

So I spotted pie pumpkins in my Farm Fresh…err, nope GREEN Bean Delivery (they changed their name FYI), and decided it was high time I stopped buying cans of pumpkin. Pie pumpkins are smaller than your average pumpkin, but really I think you can make puree out of any kind of pumpkin. They all seem to be the same to me.

Now you have your pumpkin puree plan. What will you do with it? I suggest pumpkin bread. Or oatmeal. Or put a bit in your favorite pancakes. There are tons of recipes out there. I’m going to attempt to try a few more this fall.

I had one thing in mind for my puree: pumpkin bread. One of Adam’s all-time favorite baked goods is pumpkin bread, and a couple of years ago his mom gave me her recipe (this was also the same time she gave me the potato chip cookie recipe. So now I can pretend to be Adam’s mom by baking him pumpkin bread. And that’s not weird at all.

Make this pumpkin bread. It’s spicy (in a cinnamon and nutmeg sort of spicy way) and pumpkin-y, and never dries out. This time I topped it with cinnamon cream cheese icing, but it’s equally delicious plain.

Continue reading

Fake Empires Apple Pie

First off, my friend/coworker Jen and I are taking a work trip out to L.A. on Thursday and Friday. We’ll be carrying four giant checks with us to present to a school as prizes for our art contest. Two of my close high school friends live in L.A., so we’re going to spend some time with them. Does anyone have any suggestions on must-sees, amazing restaurants, or anything else for us? This’ll be my first trip to L.A., and California, and Jen’s second I think.

I’ve kind of wanted to name baked goods after songs or bands. Saturday night, as the National rocked my world in concert (I may have had a religious transcendental experience or two … I swear, and I totally touched Matt when he came into the crowd and walked around as he sang the last song), I came up with my first baked good with a song name after The National’s “Fake Empires.”

Stay out super late tonight
Picking apples, making pies
Put a little something in our lemonade and take it    with us
We’re half awake in a fake empire

Hence, Fake Empires Apple Pie. Oh hey, and it doesn’t hurt that there’s an apple called the empire apple.

I don’t have a strong attachment to how apple pie should taste. It doesn’t evoke childhood memories for me. But I know it does for so many people. Apple pie is one of those dishes that people feel very strongly about. It’s a classic, an all-American standby. So, though I contemplated doing things like throwing in some rum or mixing in ribbons of caramel sauce, I didn’t. I figured best to get down the standard, delicious apple pie first because that’s what people love. You don’t mess with a classic until you know it well. So I figured I’d need at least two attempts at this pie before it was worthy of bringing to a Coffin or Goodman Thanksgiving. Lo and behold, I fricking hit the jackpot on my FIRST TRY. You guys, this pie, it’s sweet and tart, it’s gooey, it tastes like autumn, dare I say it? It’s a classic.

A quick note on the apples you may want to use. I highly suggest either finding a local orchard and picking your own or buying local apples at your farmers market or grocery. You usually want to use some tart apples and some sweet apples. You can’t go wrong with Golden Delicious/Granny Smith mix. If you want to get creative, here are some tips. For a nice mix of sweet and tart, use Jonathan, Stayman-Winesap, Cox’s Orange Pippin, or Jonagold. Straight up sweet choices are Golden Delicious Braeburn, Fuji, Mutsu, Pink Lady, Suncrisp, Rome Beauty, or Empire.Tart baking apples are Idared, Macoun, Newton Pippin, Granny Smith, and Northern Spy. Stay away from apples that become mushy when cooked like McIntosh and Cortland.

And a quick note on your filling not being soupy. (I’ve had this problem and it BLOWS.) Bake the pie until the filling is really bubbling. This will give your thickening agent (flour, tapioca, or cornstarch) time to activate and work. To prevent the crust and top from burning, make a little tent over the top of the pie with foil about 15 minutes in. Let the pie cool ALL THE WAY, like an hour at least, before you slice into it to let all the juices thicken up.

Continue reading

simply irresistible chocolate chip cookies

Adam is my best critic of my baking. He likes good baked goods (really good food in general, how lucky?!) and he’s not afraid to tell me exactly what he thinks about a pie, brownies, or cookies that I’ve made. He’s always able to pinpoint the not so great aspects, such as “this pie is too watery, and I can taste the chunks (that’d be the tapioca beads)” or “the caramel on top of these brownies is just too much. The layer is too thick. Besides, don’t change the brownies, they’re perfect the way they were.” I really do value his judgment and opinions. So when he proclaimed my most recent batch of cookies “simply irresistible” I was thrilled.

What makes these cookies so irresistible? Well, first, as a baker, I find the fact that they hold their shape irresistible. You know how most chocolate chip cookies spread as they bake? These don’t. I kind of want to attribute that to the oatmeal in them. Oatmeal cookies always seem to hold together much better than choco chip cookies. Also, and this wasn’t in the original recipe, I left out the vanilla. I read this in a recipe somewhere on the internet (damned if I remember where), and while you’d think taking the vanilla out would take away flavor, I think the exact opposite happens. The brown sugar, butter, and chocolate flavors really shine. Lastly, I love the texture of these cookies. They’re not chewy, but not crunchy and hard. They live in that in between, crumbly cookie land.

Continue reading

Almond Cake with Raspberry-Lemon Whipped Cream

Well this is a huge embarrassment. I made this wonderful cake for my wonderful mother’s birthday and I forgot to post it.

And now that summer is over, you may be all sad when you see the beautiful berries piled on top of the cake. But, don’t worry! This cake will be equally tasty minus the berries, add some other kind of fruit on top of the whipped cream, no fruit and just whipped cream, different flavored whipped cream (think vanilla, amaretto…), chocolate frosting or caramel on top…are you starting to understand the wonderfulness of this cake yet?

Birthday Momma and Pappy

OK, so back in August, my mom had a birthday. My mom likes berries, tortes, pies, coffee, things like that. Last year I made her this espresso chiffon cake with fudge frosting. Out of this world. This year I went with almond and David Lebovitz. Does FTW apply here?

So like I said, top this cake with anything really. It can even be sliced into two layers if you want to get fancy. Really the cake is the star. It’s got a rich but not overpowering almond flavor and an incredibly moist (sorry, sorry!!) crumb. Honestly, it’d probably be good all on it’s own. Just hop on past the jump and check out the recipe!

Continue reading

Raspberry Lemonade Cream Pie

First of all, how did I just discover 101 Cookbooks? I’m going to spend the rest of my day reading over her entire site and absorbing all of her natural food and cooking information. OK, maybe not all day since I am at work.

Second of all, I watched Food, Inc. over the weekend (which was almost a week ago, I realize). A very eye-opening documentary about the food industry in this country, and it made me incredibly thankful to have local, conventional or organic produce and groceries, and grass-fed, local, ickiness-free meat at my fingertips. Thanks Farm Fresh Delivery and Goose the Market! You make me feel good about what I shove into my mouth every day. Tehehe.

Thirdly, make this pie. This pie, this pie. It’s all kinds of sweet-tart summery goodness. And the only oven-turning-on you have to do is to blind bake the crust! Which, let me just tell you, is a HUGE plus when outside felt like 100° for two weeks straight.

the lighting in my kitchen sucks, remember?

What you should really be paying attention to here is the crust. Remember how we made a pie in North Carolina with vodka in the crust? That’s the basic recipe I used here, but I changed one thing.

Meet the flakiest artery-clogging mothaheffah around

Oh yes. That, my friends, is lard. A tub of lard. I have a tub of lard in my fridge, just hangin out. I bought a tub of lard at Kroger (but I went through the self-scan because I was too embarrassed to let anyone ring up my lard). About this lard. It’s not vegetarian. Duh. It’s a tub of animal fat and not the best thing for you. But, BUT (butt) it makes the damn flakiest pie crust I’ve ever tasted. So, I suggest you give lard a chance if you can stomach it. You will be blown out of the water.

hi piggy tail

I probably will only use lard when my kitchen is too hot for butter, because all-butter crust is like a tiny piece of heaven. But I’m never going back to a Crisco-butter combo. Sorry, Crisco.

Another quick note. If you’re a bit nervous about rolling out pie dough because it’s sticky and whatnot, this vodka recipe is perrrrrfect for you. Who’m I kidding, it’s perfect for anyone making pie crust. The vodka makes the dough so malleable and easy to work with that you’ll think you’re rolling out Play Doh. Plus you can drink vodka ice teas while you bake.

OK, so on to the pie recipe. Continue reading

Ginger Peach Muffins

Sometime between Thursday at 3pm and Monday at 12pm I have to customize my Farm Fresh Delivery bin. This means I get to fill my bin with as many of the fruits and vegetables available that week as I can for f$25, and then go virtual grocery shopping and add things like fresh, local pasta, local coffee and mustard, farm fresh eggs, and organic soy milk. If I forget to customize my bin, Farm Fresh delivers my standing order – the grocery items I’ve designated to be automatically delivered every week and the produce they automatically select to go in bins. This is not a bad thing, but sometimes, like last week when I forgot to customize, I end up with four peaches and four apples. Too much fruit for me to consume.

only sad pic I got because lighting at 9pm in my kitchen sucks balls

After eating peaches in my oatmeal for a few mornings, I decided to stick the rest of the peaches into a baked good of some sort. Ginger peach muffins to the rescue!

I hate the way fresh ginger smells. Kind of like cleaning solution. So I don’t really cook with it too much, which is a real mistake I think. Turns out ginger pairs amazingly with peaches. I also hate grating anything, so grating fresh ginger for this recipe was  chore, but a chore well worth it. I think my favorite part about these muffins is the nice, buttery smell of the peaches on the tops.

This was also my first attempt at baking with agave nectar instead of sugar. I think it went well. The general rule to subbing agave for sugar seems to be use 2/3 – 3/4 the amount of sugar in your recipe and reduce any liquids (milk, water, soymilk, etc.) by 1/4 – 1/3. Also, drop your baking temperature by 25°.

Recipe after the jump! Continue reading

Chocolate beer cake

I wonder at what point in my life I’ll stop having no money. Will that time ever come? I honestly cannot see an end right now. And the thing is I do not spend excessively. I do not. Lunch out once a week, maybe dinner once a week, groceries from Farm Fresh Delivery once a week, the occasional extra trip to the regular grocery to get baking supplies, gas for my car, the occasional trip to Target to buy toilet paper and soap. That is literally all that is on my credit card statement for the past month. Gas. Food. Target. One J.Crew charge, items which were on sale, and one of which I returned. I bought a cardigan thing in June from Anthropologie, but I wear the thing once a week at least. In fact I’m wearing it today. I feel like all my money goes to bills, rent, and paying for the uber-expensive work that was done on my car last month. I also bought a swimsuit last month, which probably wasn’t completely necessary, but if I do ever come upon a chance to wear a swimsuit, it will not be a two-piece. Not anymore.

Seriously, does anyone have any tips on saving money? Because I am at a complete and nearly tearful loss. (Mom, if you read this, I WILL NOT take your money! Don’t offer :D)

OK, on to happier things. Much happier things. CAKE. CHOCOLATE. BEER. I realize I may have lost your attention as I spilled my money woes, but do I haven it back now?

bro and sis

My little brother turned 24 last Wednesday. Yikes, 24. I remember my 24th. It doesn’t seem that long ago, and in reality it wasn’t. Only three years ago. But it was in this Indianapolis-Adam-Jack and Jill lifetime. Last year when little brother turned 23, I fondly remembered my 23rd, in that faraway Raleigh lifetime. So, Last Monday my mom texted me (yes, she’s an expert texter!) asking to keep Wednesday open for birthday festivities. I, naturally, responded with “OK, want me to bake a cake?” Because 1. I have no money to buy birthday presents and 2. Baking is my middle name. Yes, she said. Problem. My brother is not a big fan of sweets. (OK, this causes more problems than just the birthday cake one, because I can’t feed him things that come out of my kitchen.) But he does love chocolate. He also loves good, dark beer. So when I found a chocolate stout cake on Smitten Kitchen, I knew I’d hit the jackpot.

This cake is rich and flavorful, but not so much that you feel sick after one piece. It’s moist and stays moist through the next day. And it doesn’t require any crazy ingredients.

Recipe after the break!

Continue reading

North Carolina feasting

Last weekend I went to North Carolina. Oh yeah, I already told you that. I’m obsessed with North Carolina, particularly the mountains. Hm, told you that already too. Oh well, it’s good to reiterate the important things. I drove down to Tryon, NC, this magical little horsey community just almost tipping into South Carolina. Ivey, one of my best friends Bette’s mom, has a house there. The front porch looks west towards the mountains and sunsets. There’s a three stall barn next to the house where Bette’s retired horse Johnny, Ivey’s superstar Joseph, and her newest addition Gus, live.

Renée picks tomatoes for gazpacho

And this summer, Ivey’s planted a little garden filled with okra, tomatoes, basil, and marigolds, too.We spent many of our days off from camp at this house. It’s like my summer retreat. I love it. So I could hardly wait to spend four days there with Bette and Renée, a fellow Green Cove counselor, and Bette’s friend Jennifer. (There was a fifth girl, but I’d prefer not to mention her as she put a big fat blotch on the weekend.)

We rode ponies, went to Bele Chere, visited camp (where I got to hug Lee, the riding head, and my summer momma), and cooked so much good food.

I’ll go in the order we cooked these items.

blackberry peach pie

1. Porch Swings, our beverage of choice. Pimms (a tradition for us in Tryon), gin, cucumbers, 7Up, and lemons.

2. Gazpacho. Tomatoes from the garden, cucumbers, avocado, spices, jalapeños, green peppers.

3. Blackberry-Peach pie. Peaches and blackberries in a buttery crust. Oh and a little vodka.

Continue reading