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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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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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie & A Birthday List

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In honor of my birthday, I made a pie. While cutting up strawberries and rhubarb, rolling, cutting, pressing, and weaving the pie dough, I thought about who I am at 24. I thought about all the things I’ve learned about the world and about myself, and I wondered what I might learn in my 25th year. I spent those quiet pie-making moments, my hands happily occupied, thinking about who I might be one day, and what 24 year-old me might think of that person. In 24 years, I’ve learned a lot of things, but there are way more things that I don’t know. To celebrate being 24, I’ll share these 24 pieces of advice. These are things that I know, but things that I need to be reminded of sometimes. Maybe you’ll think some of these things are dead wrong, but then again, maybe you need to hear some of them, too.

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1. Listen when people tell you about themselves. It’s not always easy to do, but people need to be heard.

2. There is nothing more important to your daily sanity than having a clean, quiet space to retreat to. For you, that place is the kitchen, and even though you don’t always want to, it means you have to do all the dishes before you go to bed.

3. Expressing yourself eloquently is really, really hard. But it’s also really, really important. It’s necessary to find people that will bear with you while you muddle through your own feelings, listening patiently without judgement.

4. It’s also really, really important and really, really hard to bear with someone else while they muddle through their own feelings, listening patiently without judgement.

5. Trust your intuition. Even if it doesn’t make sense right away.

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6. Let yourself fall in love without embarrassment, hesitation, or fear. Whether it’s romantic love, friend love, or just the love of a new idea or thing, jump in with both feet and don’t think too much.

7. That said, be practical. If someone hurts you, puts you down, or isn’t good to you, have the courage to stand up for yourself and demand that things be different.

8. You don’t have to have expensive things to create something beautiful.

9. Skip the gossip. Really. It hurts you the most.

10. Make time to spend alone, and don’t feel bad about it.

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11. Remember that you can always say no–and that you don’t have to explain why.

12. Never underestimate the power of a simple smile. And not a shy, no-teeth-showing smile. Use the biggest, toothiest, happiest smile you can muster. Even if you have to fake it.

13. Try not to worry too much about what other people think. Be yourself, and that is good enough.

14. Be open to other people’s opinions. You’re incredibly hardheaded, so try your damnedest to stay out of your own way.

15. That said, when it really matters, stick to your guns to the bitter end.

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16.Put the sarcasm away when it’s masking another feeling. Express that feeling instead. It’s kinder to the people who love you.

17. When someone gives you a complement, don’t argue with them. Say “thank you” and leave it at that.

18. Always admit when you are wrong. To your coworkers, your friends, your family, and even to the person you accidentally cut off in traffic.

19. Never be with someone who doesn’t love you at your very worst. Your partner should be happy to give you a big hug when you’re being mean, your hair is dirty, you forgot to take the trash out, and your legs haven’t been shaven.

20. Choose to be with someone who will call you on your bullshit.

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21. Do something outside of your comfort zone every once in a while. I know you hate looking stupid, but it might be worth it.

22. Go outside and exercise.

23. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’ll always be more critical than anyone else. Give yourself some leeway to make mistakes without stressing out about it.

24. Don’t forget that you’re only 24 years old. Go easy on yourself, and allow yourself to make mistakes. You’re going to get sunburns even though you know you shouldn’t. You’ll probably drink too much sometime this year and wish that you hadn’t. You’ll totally screw up a recipe, yell about it, and throw it in the trash even thought it was probably fine the whole time. That’s okay because you’re a human, and humans can be kind of stupid.

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Here’s to being 24, eating birthday pie, and admitting that you don’t know everything.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Lattice Top:

For the crust: (from Ashley English’s book, A Year of Pies)
2 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 c vegetable shortening
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 c ice water

Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, break the butter and shortening up in the flour and salt. Work with it until there are no pieces of butter larger than peas. The dough should hold together if squeezed at this point. Pour the ice water in all at once and use a fork to incorporate the dough as best you can. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it a few times to make the dough come together into a smooth disc. Cut the disc in half and round off both pieces, wrap them in saran wrap and chill them in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

For the filling:
1 pound of strawberries, halved (quartered if they are big)
1 pound of rhubarb, roughly chopped
1/3 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 c white sugar
pinch salt
zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 c cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Put all those things together, stir and let sit at room temperature for a while. To assemble the pie, roll out one of the discs of dough until it’s about 10 inches all the way around. Put it into a greased pie pan, trim the edges so that there’s about an inch hanging over the sides, then fold the extra dough under and use your fingers to make a nice crimpy edge. Then, fill the pie with the fruit mixture. Roll out the second dough disc, also to about 10 inches. This time, measure 1-inch intervals across the dough. Using a ruler for a straight edge, cut the dough into strips. (You can use a fluted pie cutter tool or just a knife.) Use those strips to make a lattice pattern on the pie. When you’re done, trim the strips, and tuck the edges in beside the crust. Does that make sense? If not, I know there are plenty of videos on youtube!

Bake the whole pie at 425 degrees F for about an hour. Let it cool for 4-6 hours before you go for it–it needs time to cool and set up. Serve with ice cream!

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Christmas & A Swiss Chard Pear Tart

DSC_0082Doesn’t Christmas happen really fast? I feel like I’m slowly getting ready for it all through November, and then after Thanksgiving I keep telling myself that I have a bunch of time before Christmas, but that’s never true. I ended up–like always–scrambling in the last couple of weeks to get gifts for everyone, and most of my homemade gift ideas went totally down the tubes. The things that I did manage to make are done hastily and I certainly did not to take pictures of it while I did it. You’ll have to believe me that I made a lovely marmalade, Irish cream, and vanilla. Just take my word for it, will you? I did have a chance to make brunch on Christmas day, and the tart that I made was so good, I remade a few mini-tarts today with the sole purpose of taking pictures…and then eating them for dinner. But, before we talk tart crust and custard, here’s a peek at my Christmas.
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We went out oystering and made friends with a pelican.
DSC_0125Palaki the dog is terrified of me, but only if he’s inside. When we’re outside, he can deal.
DSC_0181My Dad and Uncle Dickie
DSC_0186After about an hour, we had a bushel and a peck of oysters.
DSC_0200These are their excited faces–just before opening presents!
DSC_0202I think my dad has a future in glove modeling, don’t you?
DSC_0205More gift modeling
DSC_0198Coffee and beer at breakfast.
DSC_0092My Mom and I make sugar cookies every year, and it’s always a little messy.
DSC_0104We made stars and trees.
DSC_0231Speaking of my Mom, here she is with Mona.
DSC_0245We had Prosecco cocktails on Christmas morning…

DSC_0217...And Emily wore everything she opened.
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Santa brought lots of books and an ice cream maker!
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Mona got a bone and a blanket. She also helped everyone else open their gifts.
DSC_0077Okay, okay, back to this tart. I made it on Christmas morning, so I promise it’s deceptively easy. It’s just a simple butter crust, and you don’t have to roll it out, it’s just a press-in situation. You can even make the crusts ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator or freeze them.

Here’s the recipe for the crust: (makes 4 mini tarts, 1 nine-inch round tart, or 1 14 inch rectangular tart)

1 cup all purpose flour
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed
pinch of salt
4-5 Tablespoons of ice cold water

Whisk the flour and salt together, then cut the butter into the flour mixture using either a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers. It should look like course meal when you’re done; none of the pieces should be larger than a pea.

Pour the water into the mixture and using a fork, gently incorporate the liquid. When you can pick up a handful of dough and it holds together when squeezed, it’s done. If it doesn’t hold together, add more water. Do not overmix.

Dump the course dough into the pan and gently press it into the bottom and against the sides. Smooth the edges with your finger.

If you’re planning to keep the tarts for a while, place them in the refrigerator or freezer, well wrapped, at this point. If you’re going to make them now, You should still chill them for a few minutes while you prepare the filling.

For the filling: (recipe adapted from http://www.cannellevanille.com)

1 medium leek, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chopped Swiss chard, (remove tough ribs but use the tender ones)
2 tablespoons white wine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 ounce  Parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
1 medium Bartlett or Bosc pear, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a pan over medium-high heat, sautee the garlic and leeks in olive oil until fragrant. Then add the swiss chard, wine, a pinch of salt and pepper, cover and let the greens wilt. It should take about 8 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the milk, eggs, coconut milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg, half of the Gruyère, and the Parmesan.

Take the tart shells out of the refrigerator, poke holes in the bottom, and bake just the shell for about 10 minutes. Press any bubbles down when you take them out of the oven.

In the par-baked shells, make a layer on the bottom with the sauteed greens, then arrange the sliced pears on top of the greens, then pour the milk mixture over everything, stopping when the shells are nearly full. Top with the remaining Gruyère.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool, pop off the tart pan’s sides, and enjoy warm!
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Birthday, Birthday!

In honor of my birthday, here are a few things I’ve learned in my twenty three years:
1. When it comes to fashion, if you don’t like it or it just doesn’t suit you, skip it. And don’t ever look back.
2. It’s okay to look stupid sometimes. That means you’re changing, and growing, and learning. And those are good things, no matter how crazy I might look while squatting in the backyard trying to light a grill for the first time.
3. Saving money actually is a good idea. However, I have no idea how to do this effectively. I still stash money in envelopes and hide them from myself.
4. There is nothing worse than sand in your tent. Period. Always remember to brush your feet off before you get in.
5. Puppies turn into dogs. Case in point: that sweet Jack Russell puppy that fit in the palm of my hand when I was nine is now a blind, deaf, biting machine. She’s so lucky to have my mom to take care of her!
6. Smile at people who have no intention of smiling at you. It’s disarming, and that can really work in your favor.
7. If you really love something, learn how its made. Make it yourself if you can. Then, put a cute label on it and give it as a gift.
8. You are your number one advocate. This also means that you are the only one paying attention to how often you go to the dentist.
9. Stretch. Every morning, before coffee.
10. Make your own birthday cake! I made mine this year and it was spectacular. (Downside: no one but you is to blame if it’s a flop.)
This cake will change your life. I’m for real. It’s moist but surprisingly light and fluffy, and the secret is the cream of coconut in the cake itself. Also, toast your coconut topping! Come on!
Here’s the recipe:
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Cake:
9 oz / 2 1/4 c plain cake flour sifted
1 large egg
5 egg whites
3/4 c cream of coconut
1/4 c water
1 tsp coconut extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
12 Tbs / 1.5 sticks unsalted butter, softened but cooled and cut into pieces
Icing:
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
3 tsp coconut extract
3 cups powdered sugar
2 c packed sweetened shredded coconut
1-2 tsp water or milk
pinch of salt
Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 nine inch cake pans and set aside.
2.  In a medium sized bowl, beat egg and egg whites in bowl with fork to combine and add cream of coconut, water and both extracts and beat with fork to thoroughly combine.

 3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix flour, baking powder, sugar and salt on low for 30 seconds to combine.
 4. With the mixer still running, add butter one pat at a time and beat until it resembles coarse meal and butter bits are no smaller than peas.
 5. Add one cup of egg mixture to flour / butter. Increase speed to medium/high and beat until light and fluffy. Add remaining liquid in steady stream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for a bit longer. Batter will be thick.
 6. Divide batter between pans and level. Bake until cakes are golden brown and sides pull away from pan or cake tester comes out clean (about 30 minutes). Leave the oven on.
7. Cool cakes for 10 min, then loosen the edges with a paring knife and turn out and back over on cooling rack and cool to room temperature.
7. Spread shredded coconut onto baking sheet and toast in oven. Watch carefully! (I’ve started fires while attempting to toast coconut.) Remove from the oven when coconut is golden brown on the edges.
8. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and powdered sugar together for the icing.
9. When the butter and sugar is fully incorporated, add the extract and salt. Then, adjust the texture of the icing using the milk or water. Be careful, a little goes a long way.
10. When your cakes have reached room temperature, place the first cake on a cake stand and spread icing onto the top of the cake. Then, line up cake #2 and place it on top. Ice the top and sides. Press the toasted coconut onto the top and sides of the cake.
Put candles and cake decorations on top, blow out candles, slice, and enjoy with a tall glass of milk. Celebrate being another year older and (maybe) wiser.