Day 7 – Peachy Coconut Cookies

Just looking at the name of these cookies makes me think SUMMER SUMMER SUMMER! I almost cried when I spotted peaches on the list of produce I could get in my grocery bin last week. Peaches mean summer is here! Another hint may be the 90+ degree weather we’re having.

Anyway, my first instinct was to make a blueberry-peach pie. But Michael is out of town this week and I didn’t want him to miss out on one of my favorite pies. Plus the blueberries may have jumped into a few breakfast smoothies. It’s like they wanted me to do something healthy with them, the buggers.

About a month ago I marked a peach sugar cookie recipe on A Beautiful Mess. The cookies photographed were decorated so gorgeously with pastel-colored coconut that I couldn’t resist. But alas, no peaches yet for me. Until day 7 of Creative Fun Month!

Conveniently enough, today is a co-worker’s birthday. So I settled into the kitchen last night with Joy the Baker’s latest podcast and a beer. And so a mouthful of summertime prettiness was created!

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Day 1 – Scotcheroos and Corn Cakes

Day one of 30 Days of Creativity was a delicious success. I got creative in the kitchen. Start easy and where you’re comfortable, right? On Sunday we went to a barbeque hosted by a former co-worker. We’d been camping Friday through Sunday morning near Bloomington, so I needed something easy to make. Lucky for us, I requested breakfast on the way home from our campsite at Bloomington Bagel Company. Michael spotted a Peanut Butter Crunch bar in the dessert case and declared it very good. Could we reproduce it? One taste and I said hell yes, this is gonna be easy! These are scotcheroos!

Have you heard of scotcheroos? They’re like Rice Krispie Treats but better because they involve peanut butter, butterscotch, and chocolate. I use the word addicting loosely here. I ate one at the barbeque and then two more on the way home.

Scotcheroos seemed to be the easy and obvious choice for Day 1 for multiple reasons: Michael requested I make them again, and soon; they take literally 15 minutes to make; no oven; did I mention delicious?

We also had corn cakes with avocado and tomato salsa for dinner.

I prepped half of this meal (the corn cake batter) while I ate breakfast at the counter this morning. All that was left to do tonight was cut up veggies for salsa and cook the cakes. The meal is flavorful and balanced, filling and yet not heavy. The sweet corn cakes go nicely with the bright salsa. I love combining tomatoes and avocados. Just something about the flavors mixing together. Next time will add some black beans to the salsa. And the bright colors in this meal were actually fun to photograph! Continue reading

A Lemony White Chocolate Birthday Cake

When one of your best friends turns 27, you throw down in the cake department. At least that’s what my friends and I do.

So I started planning for Samantha’s birthday cake weeks in advance. Sam’s birthday is in the beginning of April, right when Spring starts to tease you with a few warm, sunny days. So a cake that says Spring! She doesn’t really like chocolate in an obsessive way, which is OK because in my book this time of year rings in the beginning of fruit-baking season.

So when I saw a white chocolate cake filled with lemon curd, I figured I’d found my cake. I like white chocolate in certain situations, where you don’t want a chocolate flavor perse, but you want a nice, sweet cake. I looooove lemon curd. Have you ever had it? Seriously, it’s worthy of eating all by itself with a spoon. Creamy, tangy, delicious. Balances out the white chocolate perfectly. I was completely inspired by the original cake’s pretty pastel-colored frosting and polka dots, but not so much the fact that it was cream cheese based. Too heavy. So I opted for whipped cream. I felt really good about giving this cake to Sam to celebrate her life.

Also, a note. I’m normally terrible at assembling layer cakes. As in they end up lopsided, the icing melting down the sides, and the layers sliding apart. This cake was supposed to be four layers (bake two layers, slice each in half). The idea of four layers scared the shit out of me. I went with two. I also think the whipped cream as icing really helped. It slathered on easily and I didn’t have to do a lot of smoothing. The pink and yellow really helped the whole thing look nice, too I think. Sam said the yellow dots looked like popcorn. I’ll let you decide!

I did use some layer cake tricks that I’ve picked up on various blogs. I’ll bold them in the directions below. I did do the cake over two days. Actual cake (and curd if you make your own) day one, whipped cream and assemblage day two.

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Corny Pancakes

I know, I know, I’ve been ridiculously absent lately. List of reasons:

  • I haven’t made any inspiring new recipes (until this past Sunday morning). I’ve been recycling delicious old favorites.
  • We’ve been searching for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. They’re the boyfriend’s favorite thing to spend money on at the grocery. Obviously, I am convinced I can make better than store-bought. We’re very close.
  • I’ve been totally copping out on Songs of the Week by posting just a song, no explanation, on my Tumblr.
  • Nothing noteworthy has happened and I don’t like blogging about random, meaningless things.
  • I’m going to work on sharing more things like awesome internet finds, my running updates, and things I’m making every day in the kitchen. (This’ll involve more photos, so bare with me as I struggle to become better!)

So, weekend breakfast. It’s my favorite meal of the week. I love taking my time to make something a little more involved, slowly sipping multiple cups of coffee, and not eating like I’m taking part in a competition. I like pancakes, but so often the just basic, run of the mill, buttermilk variety bores me. Pancakes with a twist, an extra ingredient and more dimension, are worthy of weekend breakfast in my house.

For my birthday, my sweet brother got me The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century. This cookbook is a compilation of over 1,400 recipes gathered from the New York Times food section from as far back as the 1850s. There are sections on everything from drinks to fish to dessert. And a whole section on breakfast and brunch!

When I was craving pancakes Sunday morning, I turned to my new trusty kitchen companion, and I found Kathleen Claiborne’s Hot Cakes. They’ve got cornmeal in them, which gives them a great texture and flavor, and a lovely light yellow color. The whole pouring boiling water over cornmeal and sugar was a bit odd and resulted in a very thick, almost paste-like mixture. But once the milk and oil are added and the egg whites folded in, things even out. I put a bit of syrup on some of mine and apricot jelly on others. Definitely worthy of Sunday breakfast.

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Soup Days: Vegetarian Chili

This winter has been a very soupy one. Soupy in a food sense for sure. I cannot get enough of making soup. You can let it simmer in a big pot as you walk the dog, it can cook all day in a slow cooker, and it’s good for lunch for days and days.

If snow could be soup, then winter has been soupy in a snow sense too. I haven’t seen grass in what feels like an eternity, but is probably more like two or three weeks. Winter will never end.

We got hit pretty hard by the Storm of Doom last week. First, two inches of ice, followed up by five to six inches of snow. I happily did a little sledding on Saturday. My bum did not happily sled. It is in fact largely bruised now.

Now as the ice was falling last week I thought about how this amazing chili recipe would be the perfect thing to be trapped in your house with. Then it occurred to me that when you’re house-bound, you can’t leave to get ingredients for chili at the grocery. So I would just be taunting you.

Now that the roads are passible and there’s still quite a bite in the air, I say have some chili! I’ve been looking for a good and flavorful vegetarian chili all winter and I think I’ve found a winner! It’s spicy for sure, a little sweet, thanks to the barbecue sauce, sticks to your ribs, and Joy the Baker says the steak seasoning is the secret to all the wonderful flavors. I trust Joy. She’s got taste and she’s funny.

Uh, also, I tried to take a photo, but it looked not so great. I’m trying to get the hang  of this food photo thing. It’s tricky! Any tips?

Recipe post-jump.

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Cranberry Orange Cornmeal Bread/IheartNC

Oh my goodness. I always forget how entirely exhausting the holidays are. I get excited every year for baking, presents, family, and friends being home. And then I get caught up in this whirlwind of…baking, presents, family, and friends being home. It’s not a bad whirlwind at all. I mean, who am I to complain when I get to host a sleepover for eight lovely ladies at my house and paint our nails and make friendship bracelets?

I’m awfully lucky to be friends with these beautiful girls.

And why would I complain when I got to spend Christmas with my little family? Especially when they threw down in a huge way to put this under the tree for me!

Hello lover, we will be very good friends, I just know it.

Right before the holiday rush began, I up and went to North Carolina to visit one of my best friends in the world Bette. But I may have screeched about that on here earlier…

I don’t know if you have a place like North Carolina is for me, so maybe you won’t quite get what I’m about to say. But when I go down there, it feels just like I’m home, not like I’m on vacation. It’s like I’m just picking right back up in my other life, right where I left off last time I was there. It just…fits. So it’s no wonder that’s where I ran the second I needed to clear my head. And let me tell you, North Carolina never fails. Head? Cleared.

We spent most of our time in Charlotte, and one of our good friends from Raleigh even drove down to hang out! But, we also went up to camp. Talk about places where you just fit. We had lunch with old friends who are practically family in my mind. They care so much it blew my mind. Then of course the fact that people can care so little also blows my mind.

Anyway, Bette and I met at camp in the summer of 1995.

Some of the horses that we rode that summer we met are still there. We snapped some pictures with them.

Did you survive Christmas? Are you looking forward to New Year’s Eve? Is your belly so full of holiday food you may pop? Mine is!

Meanwhile, back at the Indianapolis ranch, a good month ago, I made some kickass quick bread. Cranberry orange cornmeal bread. I am BEGGING you to run to the grocery store right now and snatch up the last bags of cranberries you can find before the disappear. Please. I’ve become obsessed with cranberries this winter. They’re so deliciously tart and brightly, festively red. And they work so well with oranges, which are also in season during the winter.

So this bread is studded with cranberries, laced with orange flavor, and sweetened with cornmeal and honey. It’s just completely amazing. All day, every day, any time of day. Sadly, I took no pictures, but if you pop over to Joy the Baker’s site (link to her recipe to follow after the jump) you’ll see her photos, and I only made a few small changes.

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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.

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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.

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