Shrove Tuesday, Pancakes, and a Very Special Birthday

Dessert, Food, Food Photography, Photography, Recipes

Today is a special day for a couple of different reasons. For one, it’s Shrove Tuesday, meaning it’s a day for self-reflection, examination, and confession. Secondly, it’s my dear hub’s birthday, and boy, is he worth celebrating.

This morning we enjoyed banana pancakes together because they’re his favorite, and because it’s Fat Tuesday, and I will take any excuse to eat pancakes. After breakfast, I wrapped his gift and got an early start prepping for dinner. Tonight, we won’t be out for a crazy Mardi Gras/birthday celebration, but instead, we will enjoy a nice dinner together at home, relaxing, finding rest and peace, because during this lenten season, that’s just what we need.

The last six months have consisted of many changes. It was a season of transition and of adaptation. It was an exhilarating, emotional, exciting, and exhausting season. This year, for me, lent is serving as a fresh start. A beginning to the next season, a start to something new. Life finally feels a bit settled here in Austin, a little more routine, and not quite so exhausting.

I’m not sure exactly what I will be giving up this year, or if I will actually be giving up anything at all. I am still trying to figure out what I expect from this season, and am still working on my desires and goals. I long for rest, both physically and mentally, and I desire to be really intentional with my actions. I do know that much. So today, instead of of exhausting myself with worry about how I will go about that, I am choosing to find peace and rest and celebrate the man that I love. Happy birthday, my dear hubs, I am so very glad that you were born!

The-Daily-Doss---Banana-Pancakes
Banana-Walnut, Sour Cream Pancakes

yields eight 4-inch pancakes

1 large egg

1 cup sour cream

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon table salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of ground nutmeg

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

butter, for pan

1 large, ripe banana, chopped

1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, sour cream, vanilla, and sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Melt a pat of butter in the bottom of a large, heavy pan over medium-low heat. Ladle in 1/4 cup batter at a time, leaving 2 inches between each pancake. Sprinkle each pancake with a heaping tablespoon of chopped banana, and a heaping tablespoon of walnuts.

When the pancakes are dry around the edges and you can see bubbles forming on the top, flip each pancake and allow to cook for another 3-5 minutes on the second side. Once cooked through, remove from pan, add another pat of butter, and cook remaining batter.

Serve with powdered sugar, additional walnuts, and pure maple syrup, if desired.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Peach and Sour Cream Pancakes

Back to the Basics: Homemade Whipped Cream and Pie Dough

Dessert, Food, Food Photography, Recipes

There is no dessert more classic at Thanksgiving than a pie, and no better topping for a pie than whipped cream. As many of us will soon be indulging in our favorite holiday desserts, I thought I would share a couple of recipes to help put your pies over the top.

It never fails to surprise me how many people can’t (or don’t…or won’t) make their own whipped cream. It’s one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made and only requires ONE ingredient. It tastes much better than store bought whipped cream, and though I haven’t compared the prices, a container of heavy whipping cream is pretty cheap. If you can make a pie, I promise you, you can make homemade whipped cream.

While really, all that’s necessary is heavy whipping cream, it’s common to sprinkle in a little sugar to sweeten up the taste. Sometimes, I switch it up a bit and use maple syrup instead of sugar, or maybe add some vanilla or a splash of bourbon, but really, a classic sugar/cream whipped cream is hard to beat.

If you have a stand mixer, this is seriously the easiest recipe in the world. Just put your cream and sugar in your mixing bowl, turn your mixer on high, and in about two to three minutes, you’ll have yourself a glorious bowl of whipped cream. If you don’t have a stand mixer, a hand mixer works great as well. It might take a few minutes longer, and it’ll help if you freeze your bowl and beaters for about 15 minutes before you start, but that is still a pretty simple recipe if you ask me.

If you are whipping by hand, you rock! You deserve a big spoonful of cream (and maybe a shot of bourbon) once you are done. If you choose this route, you’ll certainly want to stick your bowl and beaters in the freezer for a few minutes before you start. It’ll help you out and cool you down while you work.

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Homemade Whipped Cream

yields 1 1/2 – 2 cups whipped cream

Ingredients 

2 tbsp sugar

1 c heavy whipping cream

Directions

Whisk together cream and sugar in a mixing bowl until soft peaks form.


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Though slightly harder and a little more work, homemade pie dough is another simple recipe that every cook should know how to make. You have to plan a bit ahead on this one as your dough needs time to chill, but if truly in a hurry, a freezer usually helps to do the trick. Most recipes will ask you to chill your dough in the refrigerator for a minimum of one hour (I recommend this as well), but I’ve been in a cinch a time or two where chilling my dough in the freezer for 30 minutes worked.

Unlike whipped cream, there’s a bit of a deeper science to creating a great pie dough, so I will let the professionals walk you through this one. For galettes and tarts, I enjoy Bon Appétit’s Basic Tart Dough, and for flaky pies, I favor Smitten Kitchen’s All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough all the way. If you are into graham cracker crusts, ole Deb Perelman also has a great recipe for that. It’s my favorite for cheesecakes and pumpkin pies!

As you prepare your desserts this holiday season, I encourage you to give your own whipped cream and pie crust a try. Intimated by the dough? Start small with the cream. It’ll put your dish over the top and leave your guests hungry for more. If you feel a bit nervous about making your own pie dough, Christmas is still a month away. That leaves you plenty of time to practice!

Bon appétit and happy Thanksgiving!

A Weekend in Austin Texas

Culture, Dessert, Food, Food Photography, Photography, Travel

I hate how little I have been able to blog lately. Between freelance jobs, a big project at work, awaiting the birth of my nephew, and deciding where the hubs and I will call home next, I’ve had little time for such things. But finally, now that my deadlines have passed, now that my project is complete, now that my sweet new nephew has said hello to the world, now that our choices are narrowing down, now,  finally, I have a moment to sit and write.

Anyone who knows me know that I am not good at waiting. I am a planner and I like to know what comes next. Though my life often feels chaotic and unorganized, I am the kind of person who creates lists for her lists, if that even makes sense. It’s what my husband says about me, and in my chaotic but yet perfectly organized mind, it makes sense.

As someone who loves to know just what comes next, this whole PhD waiting game has been quite the ride. Thus far, 11 applications have gone out, word has been received from eight, and the final three acceptances and/or denials could arrive at any time. Jacob and I both check the mailbox about five times a day, while I’m sure he checks his email about 100 times more.

While this whole process certainly makes me anxious,  I am thrilled to be on this ride. I’ve accepted that not knowing what comes next is exciting–it’s a new adventure waiting to be had. Loosening my grip on planning has been nice for a change. It’s nice in a way not knowing what comes next.

A few weeks ago I was able to travel with Jacob to Austin, TX for a prospective student’s weekend. We left late on a Friday afternoon, driving five and a half hours before stopping for a night in Dallas to see our brother BK. We ate In-N-Out burger and enjoyed a few beers from Harpoon–a delicacy I’ve greatly missed since our time in Boston. We enjoyed a comfortable night in, resting after a chaotic and busy week at home.

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Being the nut that I am, I made Jacob wake up at an ungodly hour (for a Saturday morning anyway) so that we could be in Austin in time to visit a local farmer’s market. If Austin ends up becoming our new home, I need to know that I’m able to trust their local food offerings. Of course, with Austin being recognized as one of the top food cities in the country, I knew that this wasn’t really anything I had to worry about. Though, seeing as how it’d been months since I’d been able to visit a proper farmer’s market, I figured I would jump at the opportunity while it presented itself. We strolled through the booths being tempted by local juices and gorgeous produce, learning a bit more about Austin’s local food movement and picking up a few handy resources along the way.

We continued our day at Easy Tiger on Sixth Street where we enjoyed a local brew, a pretzel the size of my head, and the house made cheese spread and a tangy mustard sauce. The air was warm and muggy, but it was nice to enjoy some heat on a February winter day. We proceeded with a walk down Sixth and some browsing on Congress. We zigzagged through neighborhoods peaking in to strangers’ yards. We loved the quirkiness of the homes, and the enormous succulents growing on the curbs.

After stopping at the hotel for a late afternoon nap, we ventured out for round two to get a taste of Austin after dark. We kicked things off on Rainey Street with friends and a drink at Bangers. We munched on fries with curry ketchup and sipped a Revolver blood and honey wheat. We listened to the strums of a banjo and to the hum of the harmonica. Families played cornhole with their kids, while pet owners snuck their dogs tasty treats. The atmosphere of Rainey was friendly and lively. I could see us there on a Friday after school or work;  meeting friends for dinner, or taking our dog along on a date. 

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Our night ended with a quick walk down Sixth Street to check out the local zoo, and a maple bacon donut from Gordough’s– the most sinfully delicious way to end our day.

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Sunday greeted us with cold temperatures and lots of rain. We browsed the aisles of Whole Foods while waiting for a table for brunch at a restaurant across the street. This particular Whole Foods is like the Walmart of the health food world. It was massive and overwhelming, and nothing like any Whole Foods I’d ever visited before. I could have spent hours wandering this health food heaven, but alas, our table was ready and I was forced to leave after a short 20 minute trip. I left with some Harpoon and a local Kombucha, anxious to visit this store once again.

Our farm to table brunch was a perfect treat on that rainy day. We filled our bellies with good drink and grub before venturing on to the rest of our day. We made a quick stop by Graffiti Park before spending our afternoon  browsing the eclectic shops of South Congress Avenue. We perused through antique goods and vintage finds and tried funky ice cream flavors from a shop nearby. We  took a drive through Zilker Park and pictured what our lives might look like if we decide to call Austin home.

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Sunday night rolled around and our prospective student festivities began. We enjoyed a delicious meal of Indian curry and got to know a few other prospective students of UT. We mingled with current students and teachers, and slowly took it all in. I learned all about people’s research, and chatted about what life in Austin is really like. The night ended slightly less awkwardly than it began, leaving knowing at least a handful of people’s names.

Monday was full of tours, meetings, and lectures. It was a day devoted to learning about UT and about the program that Jacob would be in. He was able to meet some of his potential professors, and to ask the questions that we have both been itching to know. I ventured off on my own during the afternoon, wandering about campus and around town, truly trying to picture myself calling this place home. I made my way back to Whole Foods, and even made my way to Trader Joe’s.  I left with five bottles of Charles Shaw and a new succulent, and headed back to find my hubs.

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Monday night ended with one last reception and chitchat with more professors. We concluded our evening with drinks at a local campus hangout and said farewell to our newly made friends. We walked back to our hotel hand in hand on that chilly, rainy night, scrutinizing the way that we both felt about UT and about Austin as a whole.

The hubs is scheduled to fly to Boulder, CO in a couple weeks to check out another serious contender. Boulder has been our number one choice from the beginning as to where we would love to live, but there are so many things to consider during this decision making process. It’s not necessarily always easy, but it’s our fun little adventure. We are both confident that with thoughtful consideration and prayer, we will end up where we are intended to be.

Deadlines are quickly approaching, so this impatient waiter will soon have to wait no more! This segment of our journey is quickly ending, while our new adventure will soon begin.

Until next time, friends!

Bourbon-Sea Salt Caramels

Dessert, Food, Food Photography, Recipes, Uncategorized

I first spotted this recipe about a month ago when my December issue of Bon Appetite came in the mail. As a sucker for anything cooked with bourbon, I immediately dog-eared the page and made plans to return to the recipe as soon as possible. I had never made homemade caramels before, but knew I had found a great place to start.

When I got an invitation for my dear friend’s third annual “Thirsty Santa” Christmas party, I knew right away what I would bring: Shauna Niequist’s goat cheese and bacon dates and these bourbon-sea salt caramels. We spent the night munching on festive treats and stealing one another’s booze–all in good fun as part of our game. I returned home with a full belly,  an empty date tray, and only a small handful of candy.

I modified the original recipe a bit, adding a bit more salt and an extra splash of bourbon. I often enjoy a salty contrast in sweet treats, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love an extra slosh of bourbon?

A candy thermometer is essential as you want to be sure and reach that perfect “soft ball” stage, and when I say constantly whisk, I mean it. My arm was sore for a good two days. I think that maybe I’ve found my new favorite, holiday workout…

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Bourbon-Sea Salt Caramels

Adapted from Bon Appetite magazine 

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

3 tbsp bourbon

1/2 tsp kosher salt

sea salt

Cover an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper. Lightly coat paper with nonstick cooking spray.

Bring sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cook until mixture turns a deep amber color. About 8-10 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and whisk in sweetened condensed milk and butter until smooth. Fit pan with candy thermometer and return to medium-low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until thermometer registers 240 degrees. Remove from heat and whisk in bourbon and kosher salt. Pour into prepared pan and allow caramel to cool completely. Once cool, sprinkle caramel with sea salt and cut into small pieces. Wrap each piece individually in parchment paper.

Store in airtight container at room temperature. Recipe yields approximately 50 pieces.

Lemon-Rosemary Butter Cookies

Dessert, Food, Food Photography, Photography, Recipes, Uncategorized

The weather was unseasonably cool here last week. With highs only reaching 80 and nightly lows dropping into the 50’s, the weather had me craving winter squashes and toasty drinks. As much as I love the fall, and as happy as I was about the weather, I was feeling a bit cheated. It has been two years since I’ve had access to a grill, and as most of our meals in Europe were either bread and cheese or pasta, I’ve not yet fully satisfied my summer palate.

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But, like any good August in the South, the temperatures are rising and things are starting to feel a bit more normal around here. The heat has cured my want for pumpkin and I’ve returned to craving all things summer. Feeling inspired by the simple syrups featured in my previous post, I decided to tinker with a favorite orange butter cookie recipe of mine. Substituting the orange with lemon, and throwing in a pinch of rosemary to spice things up, resulted in a cookie that’s about as summer as you can get.

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Using simple syrup in lieu of citrus juice gives these cookies a bit of added freshness, while a pinch of fresh rosemary gives them a nice earthy bite. If rosemary isn’t your thing, you can simply leave it out. I wouldn’t recommend it though. Even my skeptical husband came back for more. If I can make that guy love a cookie with green stuff in it, I think you will be alright. This recipe does make an awfully tasty lemon cookie, but do me a favor and try it with the rosemary at least just once.

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Lemon-Rosemary Butter Cookies

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg yolk

zest of 2 small lemons

2 tsp minced rosemary, fresh

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tbsp rosemary simple syrup

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat over to 350 F. In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar; beat until creamy and well blended.

Beat in egg yolk, lemon zest, rosemary, and vanilla. Gradually add in flour, beating at a low speed until well combined.

Roll cookies into 1 inch balls and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake cookies for 10 minutes.

Allow your cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for about 2-3 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack placed over a piece of foil.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar and simple syrup until smooth.

Once your cookies have cooled, dip each cookie into frosting until well coated. Place on cooling rack to harden. About 5 minutes. Once your cookies have hardened, add a second coat of frosting if desired.

Recipe yields about 1 dozen cookies.

Semi-Homemade Donuts

Boston, Dessert, Food, Food Photography, Photography, Recipes, Uncategorized

I’ve had a hard time writing this week. It’s not that I haven’t had things to write about, it’s that I haven’t been sure how to transition from my last post. My writing is typically pretty light and happy, but because of recent events, things have been a bit heavier here at The Daily Doss.

New updates are still developing, but for the most part, things have pretty much returned to normal around here. Businesses are reopening, and the memorial is continuously growing. And to make things even better, Spring has finally made it to Boston. The trees are budding and flowers are blooming. Farmer’s markets are set to open next week, and our calendar is already full with Spring events. It was a long winter. I am glad that it’s finally over.

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Before the bombings took place, I had intentions to share pictures and stories about our day watching the race. Living right on the marathon route, we made a repeat of last year and hosted our second annual Boston Marathon watch party. Friends showed up early on Monday morning eager to cheer on the racers. We sipped on mimosas and snacked on homemade donuts and alcoholic fruit (fruit injected with alcohol- best. idea. ever.). We were all having a great time. Happy and in good spirits, oblivious as to what the day would later bring.

So, in light of the good times that were had on Marathon Monday, I thought I’d transition back into happier topics by sharing a recipe. A recipe that we delighted in the morning of the race. A recipe that only few of us got to try as it was too good to leave any for the others.

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I saw a recipe on Pinterest once for homemade donuts made with biscuit dough. Brilliant, I thought. I couldn’t wait to give it a try. Well, to my disappointment, it was one of those false links that led to a dead end. No donut recipe for me. Well, it wasn’t hard to figure out, really. All a donut is is fried dough with a hole in the middle.

I’m typically one who enjoys making things completely from scratch, if I can. Biscuits are no exception. I’ve made homemade biscuits a handful of times. Well, because I wasn’t sure how crazy things would be on the morning of the race, and because Whole Foods sells delicious biscuit dough, I thought I would save myself heaps of time and use this little short cut. No shame. These donuts are just too good for that.

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Semi-Homemade Donuts

1 tube or package of ready-to-use biscuit dough

oil

sugar and cinnamon mix

Start off by separating your biscuit dough. Then, using a circle cookie cutter, or some other circular object (I used the lid of a medicine bottle), cut holes in the center of your dough. Set aside.

In a cast iron skillet or other heavy frying pan, add about 1 inch of frying oil. I used shortening as it was all I had on hand, but I am anxious to give these a try using coconut oil.

Heat your oil over medium heat until temperature reaches around 350-365 degrees. Be careful not to overheat your oil. Ideally, using an oil thermometer is best, but you can get by without one (I did). If you don’t know how to tell when your oil is ready without a thermometer, there are several good resources on the web. The wooden spoon technique listed here is a good one.

Once your oil has reached the appropriate temperature, in batches, carefully place your dough in the oil. Cook for about 1-2 minutes, or until golden brown, and then carefully flip, cooking 1-2 minutes more. Be careful not to overcook your dough. These will brown quickly, so don’t let your attention wander.

Once golden brown, with tongs, remove your donuts and place them on a cooling rack placed over paper towels. Once your donuts have cooled slightly, toss them in your cinnamon and sugar mixture, one or two at a time. I used a Ziploc bag for easy cleanup.

Recipe produces eight donuts and eight donut holes. Eat them fresh, or save them for later if you have the willpower. But really, what’s better than a donut fresh from the fryer?

 

Ooey Gooey Butter Cake

Dessert, Food, Food Photography, Recipes

When a special occasion, celebration, or birthday rolls around, there’s only one dessert that will do for the main squeeze in my life. I wasn’t introduced to this delectable dessert until Jacob and I started dating.  His mom got the recipe while in college and it has been a family favorite ever since. We eat it on holidays, we had it the day that we got engaged, at our wedding, and on every February 17th since 2007. Since my mother-in-law lives a good 1,500 miles away, I’ve had the pleasure of taking over the time-honored tradition of making this dessert for Jacob on his birthday.

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The hubs loves this cake so much that he can’t remember ever having anything different to celebrate his birthday. We even opted out of a traditional groom’s cake at our wedding in favor of this treat. It went faster than the wedding cake itself and I’ve had people asking for the recipe ever since.

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After a snowy morning at church and a bit of thrifting in the afternoon, we stuffed ourselves full of sushi before enjoying drinks and cake with friends. As much as we love this cake, it is just too good, and too bad for us, not to share.

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Ooey Gooey Butter Cake

1 box yellow cake mix

4 eggs

2 sticks unsalted butter

16 ounces cream cheese

16 ounces powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Meanwhile mix box of cake mix, two eggs, and one stick of melted butter. Spread mixture into a 9×13 metal cake pan. Next mix your second stick of melted butter, cream cheese, two eggs, and powdered sugar. Pour into cake pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until lightly browned. Pair it with a cold glass of milk, a piping hot cup of coffee, or my personal favorite, a steamy cup of peppermint tea.

Almond Sugar Cookies

Dessert, Food, Food Photography, Recipes

//UPDATE// 1/8//  With no school, no work, public transportation closed, and a ban on driving in effect, Jacob and I are enjoying our first blizzard warm and cozy at home. After a morning full of homework for the hubs, and cleaning for me, this snowy day at home left me hankering for a sweet snack. Craving something light to pair with my afternoon tea, I decided to try a guilt-free rendition of this sweet treat. I replaced the shortening and butter with coconut oil, using 1/2 cup coconut oil total for my fat,  and reduced the sugar to a 1/2 cup. The texture of the dough turned out significantly different, but the final product did not disappoint. Though not quite the same texture as the original recipe, these small changes still produced a moist and desirable treat. I did not chill the dough as you’ll need to with the original recipe, and you might have to work the dough a bit to get it to stay together. Don’t worry if your mixture doesn’t hold together well when mixed. With a bit of molding you should have no problem forming your dough into balls. I also skipped rolling my dough in sugar as I did not trust it to stay together and instead sprinkled a bit of raw sugar on top before placing them in the oven. Bake for 8 minutes, and enjoy one or two. Don’t worry about grabbing that second one, they’re only 98 calories per cookie and 7 grams of delicious, healthy fat! 

This time last year our apartment was in a complete state of chaos. The renovations that were to be completed prior to our September 1st move in date didn’t really begin until around now.  We had no other choice but to deal with the madness well into March. For weeks the kitchen was stripped from my use. There was no place to play. No place to escape after a long day of work. I was becoming very restless. Then, one glorious day, our kitchen was complete, and not long after, so was the rest of our apartment. Finally, our apartment felt like a home again.  I remember how excited I was to finally be able to host our first dinner party on Easter last year, a whole eight months after we had moved into our little abode.

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To make up for lost time, dinner parties have become a regular occurrence in our household. Whether it be a well planned affair or a last minute fling, what better way to try out a new, tasty dish than with friends? And on top of that, it’s a great excuse to bake, something that I no longer allow myself to do often. Not unless we plan to have company, or are having dinner elsewhere.  A lesson I learned the hard way. Dessert for 10 consumed by 2 was not friendly to my waistline…

After an unsuccessful trip to the grocery store on Thursday evening for a last minute dinner on Friday, I had to do some serious digging through our bare cabinets for dessert inspiration. I had my hopes set on trying this cheesecake recipe, but since Traders was out of Ginger Beer, and I forgot to pick up a bag of chocolate chips to make these cookies, I had to make due with what I already had on hand. Stumbling across some almond extract hidden in the back of my cabinet, and remembering this recipe that I pinned months ago, I had my inspiration.

Shortening, while baking, can be your best friend. It yields some delectable results. Although, when trying to snap yourself out of holiday eating mode (and with Valentine’s Day just around the corner to tempt us), shortening may be your worst enemy. Unlike some other cooking oils, shortening has zero health benefits. I am okay with indulging every now and then in the sweets category, but knowing me and anything almond, I knew that I better try and make these slightly healthier. And good thing that I did—I consumed four of these babies on Friday night.

Unaware of how the consistency would turn out with a total lack of shortening, and because I was low on coconut oil, I did keep one tablespoon for safe measure. I also didn’t omit the butter. I wasn’t brave enough to totally do away with the butter just yet. Though, I am looking forward to trying these again with coconut oil only, and possibly with a bit less sugar.

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Almond Sugar Cookies: 

3/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup coconut oil, room temperature

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold

1 tbsp shortening, room temperature

1 egg

1 teaspoon almond extract

1  3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Coarse sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 and grease a large baking sheeting with coconut oil. Meanwhile, cream coconut oil, butter, shortening, and sugar. Stir in egg and almond extract.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Add to the wet mixture and combine thoroughly.

Chill dough for half an hour. After your dough has chilled, use a tablespoon to roll dough into 1.5 inch balls. Roll each ball into coarse sugar before placing it on your  baking sheet.

Bake for 8 minutes and then allow cookies to cool for 3 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to cooling rack. Recipe yields about 16 cookies.

Candied Citrus Peels

Dessert, Food, Food Photography, Recipes

Homemade food gifts have always been one of my favorite things to give (and receive) during the holiday season. My mom recently mailed me a special issue of Taste of Home magazine that solely focused on food gifts (she knows me all too well). After skimming through pages of masterfully crafted recipes, I began to see a common theme; It wasn’t actually the food so much that I was interested in, it was the presentation. You should all know by now that I am a sucker for gourmet food products. Pack it in a fancy box and tie a pretty bow on top, and I am sold! So when it came to deciding what to take as a hostesses gift for a trip last weekend, I had no trouble deciding what to bring.

After a bit of searching I stumbled across this article by Martha Stewart. After singling out a few items and determining how much time I could actually devote to cooking, I decided on this little gem of a recipe.

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Perfectly balanced and delectably crunchy, my only regret is not making more!

Candied Citrus Peels

Adapted from Martha Stewart

1 grapefruit, 2 oranges, and 4 lemons (or citrus fruits of your choice)
4 cups sugar, plus more for rolling
4 cups water

Using a paring knife, make slits along the curve of the fruit from top to bottom, cutting through the peel, but not into the fruit itself. Gently remove the peel. Using your knife, remove excess pith from each slice. This step is important as leaving too much pith in tact will cause your peel to taste bitter.  Slice each piece lengthwise into ¼ to ½ inch-wide strips.

Place strips in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, drain, and repeat twice.

Meanwhile, bring water and sugar to a boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Add strips to boiling syrup, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until strips are translucent, about one hour.

Remove from heat and let strips cool in syrup. (Strips in syrup will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to three weeks.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer strips to a wire rack placed over foil. Allow excess syrup to drip off of strips before coating with sugar. Roll each strip in additional sugar until well coated.  Arranged in a single layer on a foil-covered cookie sheet and let dry for at least 30 minutes.

Once dry, store in a pretty box lined with parchment paper, or just keep them for yourself.  I wouldn’t blame you if you did. They should keep, covered, for up to two weeks, though I doubt they’ll last long enough for you to find out!

IMG_3159Wondering what to do with all of that left over syrup? Brush it on cakes, concoct a tasty beverage, or wow your friends by giving it as a gift.

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What kind of homemade gifts are you making this holiday season?

Maple-Walnut Pie

Dessert, Food, Food Photography, Recipes

Well friends, as of last night I officially finished my month of pie. Tomorrow is a new month, and the Christmas season will officially begin. It’s time to move on from the flavors of the harvest and delight ourselves with all that winter has to offer.

I saved the Maple-Walnut pie for last for a couple of reasons. For one, the ingredients felt a little more winter appropriate, and for two, it sounded amazing. I thought I would save the best for last. Well, I am sad to say that this pie was my least favorite of the bunch. Not only was it an expensive one to make (have you seen the cost of walnuts and maple syrup lately?), but the flavor of this much anticipated pie was a serious letdown. Even topped with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, I handed my plate off to the hubs. That doesn’t happen often when it comes to dessert…

The lemon in this recipe overpowered the taste of the maple, and the walnuts were just too much. I felt like I was eating spoonfuls of walnuts drizzled with lemon syrup. I even used 100% pure maple syrup, but somehow, that delectable maple flavor seemed to have disappeared.

Although a let down, maybe this pie could be redeemed with a few modifications. I’ve included my suggested changes in the recipe below.

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Maple-Walnut Pie

Adapted from the Food Network 

1 disk dough for Basic Crust 
All-purpose flour, for dusting
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups chopped walnuts, toasted
Roll out the dough into a 12-inch round on a lightly floured surface. Ease into a 9-inch pie plate; fold the overhang under itself and crimp. Chill 30 minutes.

Place a baking sheet on the lowest oven rack and preheat to 425 degrees  for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the filling: Whisk all of the remaining ingredients except the walnuts in a bowl.

Spread the walnuts in the crust and pour in the filling. Place the pie on the hot baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees . Bake until the crust is golden and the filling is set, 45 to 55 minutes. (Cover the edges with foil if they brown too quickly.) Cool on a rack.

That’s all the pie that I have for now! Until next time…