Goat Cheese Sugar Cookies

DSC_2054Before you’re all “Goat cheese? In cookies?” Just chill, because they’re delicious. Honestly, if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t realize that there is anything weird about these cookies. There is a little bit of a tang that you can’t quite place–but it keeps the cookies from being too sweet. Instead, they’re soft, interesting, and a little mysterious. (What more could you want in a cookie?!)

DSC_2052Here’s another good part: there is no need for an electric mixer of any kind. You can whip these puppies up with just a spoon, whisk, and two bowls. The messiest part is the sprinkles (but don’t try to pour them through the shaker attachment). My mom makes these perfect roll out sugar cookies, but they’re a lot of work and she would not approve of me sharing the recipe. These are like those cookies’ edgy cousins.

DSC_2066Goat Cheese Sugar Cookies
{Print Recipe}

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sugar
1/3 cup (3 ounces) soft goat cheese, room temperature
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
sprinkles (optional)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the room temperature goat cheese, melted butter, and sugar. Some lumps are okay. Whisk in the oil, egg, milk, and vanilla extract and stir until smooth. Fold in the flour mixture and stir gently until smooth.

The dough should be soft, but you should be able to form it into a ball that holds its shape. Scoop out about a Tablespoon per cookie, roll it into a ball, then roll it in the sprinkles. Place them on the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart and flatten each cookie just a little bit. (If you use the bottom on a glass, the sprinkles won’t stick.)

Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for a few minutes, then move them to a cooling rack. They will stay good for up to a week in a tightly sealed container.

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Curried Sweet Potato & Carrot Soup

DSC_2031Creamy, fall-flavored soup is like a warm, sweater-y hug, isn’t it? For this soup, curry, sweet potatoes, carrots, and shallots are all that you need. It won’t take more than an hour to make, and just goes hand-in-hand with warm socks and friends. We had this soup for dinner tonight, right before carving pumpkins and drinking hot cider.

DSC_2035For the first time this year, we have the heat on tonight. I’m snuggled under a blanket with warm socks and leggings on–it’s supposed to get down into the low 40s tonight, and I kind of love it. I usually look forward to the weather turning cold–it means that Thanksgiving is close–but this year, it seems like it’s all happened just too fast. I feel like summer slipped by, and suddenly it’s nearly November and I don’t know why.

DSC_2044This soup is sort of like a remedy to that. It undeniable that fall is upon us, but with curried sweet potatoes and carrots, it’s okay. Because its creaminess comes from the pureed vegetables, the soup is totally vegan (minus the yogurt topping) and packed with veggie goodness–pretty well completely guilt-free.

Curried Sweet Potato & Carrot Soup
{Print Recipe}

Soup:

3 large sweet potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes

2 shallots, sliced

1 pound carrots, cut into ½ inch chunks

6 cups vegetable broth (use good quality broth, and be sure it’s low sodium)

2-4 teaspoons curry powder

salt and pepper to taste

Serve with pistachios, croutons,** and a swirl of Greek yogurt and olive oil

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat some canola, grapeseed or olive oil until shimmering. Cook the shallots until transparent and fragrant. Pour the cubed sweet potatoes and carrots into the pot along with the curry, salt, and pepper. Toss everything around, the pour in the vegetable broth. Bring the broth to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

If you have an immersion blender, use that to purée the soup while still in the pot. If not, use a blender to purée the soup in batches. Return it to the pot and check the seasoning. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Serve in bowls with homemade croutons, pistachios, Greek yogurt and olive oil.

**To make homemade croutons, cut a loaf of fresh or slightly stale bread into cubes (½ inch square), toss them with olive oil (and some grated parmesan!), then bake them at 350 degrees F for around 20 minutes or until crispy.

This soup freezes excellently; I usually put it into pint-sized mason jars and freeze them. It’s easy to grab one from the freezer and heat it up in the microwave at lunchtime. It’ll be as creamy the second time around!

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Pear & Apple Butter Cake

Processed with VSCOcam with f3 presetIf you take nothing else away from this post, you must make this cake. I don’t even mean the pear and apple butter part. Just the cake part. Choose a fruit, really any fruit, and make this cake. It’s so simple: flour, butter, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Fruit topped with lemon juice, cinnamon, and sugar.

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Processed with VSCOcam with f3 presetWhile this cake was in the oven, I stood in the kitchen and didn’t do anything other than smell.  The cinnamon, pears, and apple butter smells just like fall–apple picking, the state fair, sweaters, and new socks. (Is new sock smell a thing? I think it is, but I’m also a total sock snob.)

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UntitledI’m already planning how to switch this cake up for every season. Blackberries, raspberries, figs, and peaches for summer, cranberries, pomegranate, and persimmons for winter, strawberries and rhubarb for spring. This cake’s buttery, crunchy crust and slightly sweet, moist inside is maybe the most delicious thing I’ve ever encountered. It’s amazing how much we can complicate things–cake should be so simple. This is the cake I’ve been missing, no doubt.

Also, we need to talk apple butter for a minute. I made this apple butter in the crock pot. It’s so easy, I don’t even feel right about making it into its own post. (6.5 lbs apples (peeled, cored, and sliced thin), 3/4 cup white sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 2 T cinnamon, 1 t nutmeg, 1 t cloves, 1 t cardamom, 1/2 t salt, 1 t vanilla extract. 10 hours in the crock pot, stir occasionally, then blend either with an immersion blender or in batches in regular blender. Process for 10 minutes in boiling water to seal. Don’t tell anyone how easy it was.)

Processed with VSCOcam with f3 presetBefore I get to the recipe, check this out! I’m going to start including printable PDFs for all my recipes, and I’m gonna try to keep them all on one page. There’s nothing more annoying than trying to print a recipe and it says it’s gonna be 17 pages because each picture is on its own page, and the actual recipe only takes 1. Or worse, the recipe fits on one page, but then the printer wants to print a second page with just the URL on it. UGH! I’m gonna try to make sure that doesn’t happen. All you have to do is look for the “Print Recipe” option, click on it, and boom! The PDF will download and you print it!

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Pear & Apple Butter Cake
{Print Recipe}

Cake:

1 cup all purpose flour

hefty pinch of salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

 

Topping:

1 pear, sliced thin

4 Tablespoons apple butter

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9-inch cake pan.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Then, in the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Then, slowly pour the dry ingredients into the bowl while the mixer is on low.  Mix until just incorporated (not too long!) and finish it off with a spatula.

Scoop the batter out of the bowl and into the cake pan. With the spatula, smooth it out and push it to the sides so that the batter is in an even layer.

Spoon the apple butter on top of the batter. It’s okay if there are drops that are bigger than others. You want plain cake to stay uncovered. Then, arrange the pear slices however you’d like. Next, sprinkle the lemon juice over top of the pears, followed by the cinnamon, and then the sugar.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 30-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted into a cakey part comes out clean.

Serve warm with coffee for breakfast, snacks, or dessert.

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Malted Pumpkin Brown Butter Donuts

donut in hand // a bushel and a peckLast year, I bought a donut pan to make baked donuts in. At the time, I thought that maybe it was an impulse buy that I would come to regret, but BOY was I wrong. All the recipes that are meant to be muffins can be cake donuts, and they should be. (Alternatively, if you don’t have a donut pan, these can also be muffins. But what you should really do is order one.)

Processed with VSCOcam with f3 presetThese pumpkin donuts are a little sweet, dense, and moist. The malted milk powder makes them a little more interesting than you’d think, and the brown butter is just perfect. This is the perfect kind of project for a Sunday morning–maybe you’re a little sleepy, not interested in dealing with things like bacon or eggs or pancakes. All this takes is a little bit of mixing, spooning into a pan, and baking. With the weather cooling down, a warm donut and cup of coffee is just the best idea ever.

Processed with VSCOcam with f1 presetThe coating is a little more browned butter, and then cinnamon sugar. It’s a little indulgent, admittedly, but worth it, I promise. These become the sort of breakfast treat that will win over colleagues, neighbors, and surly family members, and a little extra sugar is just part of that deal.

Processed with VSCOcam with f3 presetHere’s the recipe:
(Adapted from Take A Megabite)

Yields 6 donuts

1 cup all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons malted milk powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, browned

For the Spiced Sugar + Brown Butter Coating:
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, browned

Preheat the oven to 325˚F and spray your donut pan lightly with cooking spray.

Brown the butter for the donuts in a skillet over medium heat until the butter separates and the solids become a deep brown and smell nutty and delicious. Pour the browned butter into a ramekin and set aside to cool. (You have to get it out of the hot pan or it will burn.)

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In a mixing bowl combine the flour, malt powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and sugar. Whisk to blend. In another bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, egg, and vanilla until well combined. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture, followed by the brown butter, fold until just combined. Either spoon or pipe the batter about halfway up the donut pan molds and bake in the center of the oven for 6-7 minutes. Donuts are done when the tops are dry and spring back to the touch. Remove from oven and cool on a rack slightly before turning out. Brown the butter for coating while the donuts bake.

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In a wide dish whisk together the sugar and spices for the coating, brush the baked donuts with browned butter and roll in the spiced sugar to coat completely.

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Spiced Caramel Chai

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Earlier this year, I found myself at the Raleigh airport on a Monday afternoon, standing in line about to board a plane to Nashville.  The day before, I had been on the receiving end of a phone call I never expected to get, and had been wrapped in heartache ever since. I held a Starbucks cup in my hand, breathing in the warm scent wafting out of the little hole in the plastic top. As I wiped an quiet tear from under my puffy eye, I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, looking self-consciously at the people in line around me. One woman was wearing a pantsuit and furiously typing away on her blackberry, and a dad stood with his two girls who were discussing which member of One Direction was their favorite. I wondered briefly how it was possible that everyone could be going about their lives as usual when mine was so suddenly different. Just as the gate attendant called for my section to begin boarding and the line suddenly lurched forward, I considered running back through the terminal, through the airport exit and out into the humid July afternoon. I took a deep breath and stepped forward, clutching my cup in one hand and boarding pass in the other.

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I’m not even really sure why I bought the cup of coffee at the airport that day–I never drank any of it, I just held it until the flight attendant brought a garbage bag by my seat at the end of the flight. The familiar combination of hot coffee and cool milk was something I knew, a normal part of any day. On a day that was so abnormal, I think I was comforted by the familiar swirl of milk, the rush of steam while I stirred.

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I always cling to the small, familiar things when the big things are too much to handle. This Spiced Caramel Chai is definitely a departure from the normal coffee and milk, but it’s comforting all the same. The scent of toasted cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves reminds you just a little of Christmas, and when you put it together with some milk and caramelized sugar, it’s the perfect afternoon treat. When you need a moment to yourself–maybe just to regroup and assure yourself that you can tackle the big, scary stuff–a cup of this chai with strong coffee is just the ticket.

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Here’s the recipe:
(from Not Without Salt)

8 cardamom pods, gently crushed
1 cinnamon stick
8 whole black peppercorns
8 whole cloves
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1 inch piece of ginger, sliced thin
2 T loose black tea (or the contents of two teabags, cut open)*
4 cups 2% milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar

* Black tea is English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Lady Gray, or Irish Breakfast. I used Lady Grey and really like its soft flavor.

In a small skillet, toast the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, and cloves over medium heat for a few minutes, or until warm and fragrant.

Then, in a large, heavy-bottomed pan or pot, pour the sugar onto the bottom in an even layer. Turn the heat on medium-high and wait patiently, watching closely. The sugar will first melt, then begin to turn brown. When it is a deep amber color, and is starting to smoke, remove the pan from the heat.

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Slowly pour the milk into the pan. The caramel will definitely seize up and harden. That’s okay–it’ll melt again in a second. Stir in all of the spices, including the scraped vanilla bean pod, ginger, and loose tea.

Bring the mixture back to a simmer, stirring to be sure that the caramel has melted. When there are no sticky caramel pieces on the bottom of the pan, turn off the heat, cover, and let steep for 20-30 minutes.

Strain the mixture and store it in a jar in the refrigerator for as long as the milk is good. (I used organic, it lasts longer!)

Enjoy warmed and by itself, or with strong coffee in place of milk or cream.

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Quick Pickled Veggie Slaw

DSC_1575I have to confess: I’ve been doing that thing where I’m paralyzed by the blank screen with the blinking cursor. I’ve been trying to find my voice here for a long time, and I really just want it to be true to me. Some days that means I’m going to tell stupid jokes and talk about the weather. On other days, I might tell a story that might be sort of personal, and I’m just as likely to just talk about what it means to cream butter and sugar. I look at other food blogs, and there are some that have these stunning photographs and the author always has something profound and lyrical to say. There are others that just talk food–logistics of how to make a recipe work, step-by-step photos. And there are others still that lean heavily on stories of their cute babies.

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I think I belong somewhere in the middle of all that. Sometimes I have a good cooking tip. Other times, I have a relevant embarrassing story about spilling things in the grocery store, or setting a small fire in the oven. I hope that those things aren’t in competition with each other.

I do know a thing or two about cranking out ambitious cooking projects. If you’re looking for a new cookie to try, or a nice hostess gift for the holidays, you can find something like that here. There are also some pretty solid reset recipes available to get you back on track when you’ve had only cookies for breakfast for a couple of weeks. (There will probably also be a collection of pictures of Jason’s face, just for fun.) I’m glad that y’all are here, reading along, and I hope you like it!

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Today, this is not an ambitious project. It’s super easy, but really impressive. It’s the sort of thing that people see in your fridge and say, “What is this?!” When it’s unexpectedly on a sandwich, they’ll say, “These peppers are so good, what’s on them?”

We’re just talking about thinly sliced peppers, leeks, and carrots. You could also use cucumbers, red onions, sugar snap peas, fennel–any crisp vegetable that might be good with a light pickle-y flavor. The brine is a basic vinegar, salt, sugar, mustard seed situation. This is an ideal way to grab any late-summer, early fall veggies you might have and keep them for a little longer.

For the brine:
(adapted from Food in Jars)

1 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
(you can use all yellow if you can’t find black)
1 cup cold water

Before you make the brine, julianne all of your vegetables and pack them into a jar (about a pint and a half). Put everything into a pot, bring it to a boil  and stir until all the salt and sugar are dissolved. Set aside and let cool. When room temperature, pour it over the vegetables. Close up the jar and keep it in the fridge for 24 hours before eating. The slaw will last 3-4 weeks total.

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