Cookie Pie

I'm hearing a LOT of murmuring about putting 2016 to bed. I have heard this year described as the apocalypse + the plagues Moses unleashed on Egypt + head lice. Was it really that bad?

How about before 2017 kicks off we put on our rose tinted glasses, look at that half-full glass, and eat cookies. Better yet, cookies in pie form.

Can I get an Amen?

White Chocolate, Salted Caramel Cookie Pie
adapted from Our Best Bites

This pie is easy to make and universally loved. Make sure to serve it warm with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream. I like to make it in the morning, then before serving pop it back into the oven at 150 while we eat dinner to warm up. It should have a crisp crust, crackly top, and gooey middle.

1 9 inch pie shell
3/4 cup butter softened to room temp
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white chocolate chips, plus more for garnish
8 Kraft caramels snipped with scissors into 6 pieces, plus more for garnish
Maldon or other large flake sea salt 

Preheat oven to 375.
Grease pie pan and line with pie crust, crimping edges decoratively. Line pie crust with parchment or foil and fill the pan with beans or rice or pie weights to keep the crust from shrinking while baking. Bake crust for 15 minutes.
Remove the crust from the oven and cool. Remove pie weights when cool enough to handle.
Reduce oven temperature to 325.
In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugars until slightly fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, vanilla extract, and salt and mix well. On low speed add the all-purpose flour. Stir in the white chocolate chips and caramel pieces. Spoon the batter into the pie shell and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted halfway between the edge and the center of the pie comes out clean.
If desired, melt some white chocolate with a little cream in a small bowl using the microwave then set aside. Do the same with the caramels. Using a fork drizzle some of each onto the top of the pie and then sprinkle with the flaky sea salt. If you are not doing this step sprinkle the top of the pie with the sea salt immediately after removing it from the oven.

A Little Tenderness. Also, Bourbon.

So. Today is the last day of this election season. Can I get an AMEN?

Feeling the need for a little warmth, tenderness, and comfort, I made muffins. And, because we all probably need it after these months of debate and verbal sparring, I added some Bourbon. And, because I thought it was a great idea to buy a bag of pears at Costco this weekend, they went into the mix as well. The pears and some chopped, candied ginger settled in to make jammy pockets that are quite lovely.

Go vote if you haven't already. Really it is a privilege. Do it! Go for a walk. Make these muffins. Then, depending on tonight results, grab some Champagne to celebrate, or more Bourbon if you feel otherwise.

Spiced Pear Muffins with Crumb Topping

For muffins:
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter softened to room temperature
2 eggs beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Bourbon
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, freshly ground if you can
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk, see note
2 medium pears, unpeeled, cored, and finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped candied or crystallized ginger

For crumb topping:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place muffin cups in muffin tin and set aside. See note.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk well to combine and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the sugars, and softened butter until it is blended well and slightly fluffy. About 3 minutes. Add eggs, vanilla, and Bourbon, and mix until well combined.

Alternate blending half the flour and half the milk into the butter mixture. Stir only until the flour is incorporated. Fold in the pears and candied ginger.

Divide the muffin batter between the muffin cups. Roughly 2/3rds of the way full.

In a medium mixing bowl combine the ingredients for the crumb topping. Use your fingers to cut the butter into the flour until a nice crumb texture is reached. Evenly distribute the crumb topping over the muffin batter.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let muffins cool in pan for 10 minutes then either turn each muffin on it's side in the tin or remove to a rack to cool completely.

The original recipe called for 1/2 cup milk. I switched this to buttermilk because it was all I had on hand. I found the batter to be very dry and stiff so I added an additional 1/4 cup. See what you think...

The recipe said it makes 1 dozen muffins, I got 16 muffins out of this batch.

Plans this weekend?

Grab some friends and family, chase that last sunset, crack open some wine.

Definitely, make this. Pork Ragu, pork shoulder, tomatoes, fennel, oregano and a little heat. Throw it over pasta, over grilled bread, oh heck, just eat it out of the pan.  Once you assemble the dish, you just slip it into the oven for the afternoon. It is a dinner party, just waiting to happen.

Pork Shoulder Ragu
adapted from Dinner a Love Story

3-pound boneless pork shoulder roast
1 medium onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic chopped
salt and pepper
olive oil
1, 14 ounce can of whole plum tomatoes
1, 10 ounce can of tomato puree
1 1/2 cups of red wine
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
5 sprigs of fresh oregano
2 large bay leaves
A small handful of fennel seeds slightly crushed
1/2-1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 325.
In a large dutch oven heat the olive oil. Liberally season the pork shoulder with salt and pepper. Sear the pork on all sides, about 10 minutes total time. Remove the pork and to the hot pan add the onions and saute until light brown in color and soft. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant.
Add the whole tomatoes slightly crushing them with the back of a spoon. Add the tomato puree, red wine, and herbs. I like to push the sprigs of thyme and oregano, and the bay leaves off to the sides to make it easier to remove before serving.
Return the pork to the pan and turn to coat in the cooking liquid. The liquid should come 1/3 up the side of the pork. Add water, stock, or more wine if needed.
Cover the pan and slip it into the preheated oven. Cook for 4 hours or until the pork is very tender and shreds easily with a fork.
Remove the pan from the oven and using 2 forks pull the pork apart into large chunks and shreds. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Summer's End

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.”
―Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

I am never prepared for the end of summer. The return to school, work, organized days, and good habits. Let's face it, we all go a little feral over the summer months. Shower? A swim in the lake is a fine substitute. Dinner? Popsicles and popcorn work. Laundry? Dare to be an outfit repeater I say.

This summer we settled into this empty nest thing. We chased sunsets, read books, and one of us was known to yell "Get it" a time or two while watching Olympic events. I know it is not true but I think that if I hold my breath, cross my fingers, and only watch through one eye Michael Phelps will be assured another Gold Medal. It is a heavy burden but I will do it for you, Michael every time.

Sunset from Samish Overlook

This was also the summer of smoothies in all sorts of forms. Bowls, with toppings, layered; if you could Pin it I tried it. Yesterday I stumbled on one that just might make this back to school routine a little easier. It is easy to customize for you or your family. Choose your own nut butter, liquid, add coffee if you want. Frozen bananas and oats make it thick and creamy, the dates add a great caramel note. It is a winner around here.

Monkey on a Date (serves 2)
3 frozen bananas cut into 1-inch pieces
5 dates, pitted. Please don't forget to pit them. It is annoying to squish through your half blended smoothie to retrieve them. 
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 big scoop of the nut butter of your choice. Use as much or as little as you want. I think I used 3 tablespoons.
1 cup of either milk, almond milk, coconut milk, whatever you choose.
Optional: a shot of espresso or 1/2 cup cold coffee. Really.

Place all the ingredients in a blender and process until very smooth. It takes a bit of time so be patient. I love this with the espresso or coffee, sort of like a one-stop breakfast.

Blood Orange Tart

I am infatuated with Blood Oranges.
My daughter is looking over my shoulder nodding Yep.

So pretty.

I first fell for them when we were living in Tunisia. Here, they are a bright spot in the bleak days of winter when the rain and overcast skies threaten to linger past their welcome.
Now I sort of hoard them when I see them. I juice them and freeze the juice and the zest. 
No idea what I am going to do with my stash but it makes me happy knowing it is there.

A few weeks ago I offered a "Dessert a Month" at a fundraising auction. My friend Missy bought my offering and we agreed my first dessert would be for Easter. So, I made Blood Orange Bars with Brown Butter Crust

I halved the recipe and made it into a tart.

This rich buttery shortbread crust was filled with a gorgeous Blood Orange Curd. The curd was beautiful in color, very smooth (okay it was luscious,) and showed off that delicious berry-orange flavor the oranges are known for. 

See what I mean

All finished.

Blood Orange Bars with Brown Butter Crust
adapted from White on Rice Couple

A few notes. This recipe is meant to be made in a 9" x 13" or 1/4 sheet pan. I made half of this recipe and used a 4" x 14" tart pan. Even so I had PLENTY of crust and curd leftover and made an additional 12 tarts in a mini muffin tin. I also found my oranges to be on the too sweet side and lacking acid, taste your juice. I added the juice of two lemons to balance the flavor.

2 Cups unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Blood Orange Curd:
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
12 eggs beaten
4 egg yolks beaten
zest of 6 Blood Oranges
2 1/2 cups of Blood Orange juice (taste your juice!)
1 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2" pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 Grease pan and set aside.

Crust: Put butter in a saucepan to melt over medium low heat. Cook the butter until it begins to smell nutty and toasty and turns amber in color. This is not the time to go check Facebook. You'll burn your butter. I'm sure your mom would have something to say about that.
Once brown, remove the butter from the heat and stir in the sugar. Blend until the sugar is nearly dissolved. In a mixing bowl combine the flour and salt. Stir in the butter mixture until well blended then press into the prepared pan working the dough up the sides of the pan and evenly across the bottom. Neaten up those edges....presentation is important.

Bake the crust for 30 minutes.
Make the curd: Set a medium saucepan filled with water over medium high heat and bring to a gentle boil.
In a mixing bowl that can set over the simmering water, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Add the eggs, zest and juice. Set the bowl over the saucepan, you do not want the water to touch the bottom of your mixing bowl.
Cook the curd stirring frequently until it begins to thicken. Remove the mixing bowl from the simmering water and stir in the butter a few small pieces at a time until it is all incorporated. Strain the curd through a fine mesh strainer.

Pour the curd into the crust as soon as it comes out of the oven. Return the pan to the oven and cook for an additional 15 minutes or until the filling has thickened and looks slightly set.
Cool completely then refrigerate at least 4 hours, but overnight is best.
Serve chilled.


A pie on Pi Day for my math loving guy. Two pies in one blog post.

Banoffee Pie
Adapted from Epicurious

Make the toffee/Dulce de Leche the day before or morning of when making this pie. I refrigerated the toffee overnight and would recommend letting it come to room temperature prior to spreading in pie crust. Let's just say the crust in the above photo was not the first crust made that day...

2 cans of sweetened condensed milk.
9 inch pie crust baked according to directions and cooled
3 large bananas
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
grated chocolate for garnish, optional

Using the 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk follow these instructions to make Dulce de Leche.
Allow to cool completely. You can use store bought Dulce if, you know, you're a cheater.

Once cooled spread evenly in pre-baked pie crust. Slice bananas and distribute evenly over Dulce de Leche.

Beat cream, brown sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form. Pile over top of bananas. Garnish with grated chocolate and refrigerate until ready to serve.

I make stabilized whipped cream so that it doesn't deflate while waiting for the pie to be served. If you are interested in doing the same, follow these instructions.

The picture isn't great but the dish is delicious!

Pi Day Pot Pie

Black Pepper Pastry:
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
6 tablespoons butter very cold, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse cracked black pepper
3-5 tablespoons ice water

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cooked and cut into bite sized pieces
1 medium onion diced
4 carrots peeled and sliced
2 large potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups frozen peas
5 tablespoons of butter
5 tablespoons of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup heavy cream
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Preheat oven to 375.

In a large mixing bowl combine flour, butter, salt and pepper. Toss together then cut butter into flour mixture until well combined. Add water by the tablespoon and toss with a fork until dough comes together. Gather into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

First make the roux. In a saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Cook the roux until light brown in color.
Add thyme and then slowly add the chicken broth whisking continuously to make a smooth sauce. Add cream and lemon juice. Turn off heat and set aside.
In a large saute pan heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent and just beginning to brown. Add carrots and potatoes and saute for 5 minutes. Add frozen peas and toss through. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix vegetables and prepared chicken with the sauce. Pour into a 9x13 baking dish and spread evenly.

Remove pastry dough from refrigerator and roll on flour dusted surface into a rough 9x13 inch rectangle. Drape over filling and cut vents in top.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Happy Pi Day everyone!
Especially Andy.

Salted Peanut Butter Cookies

I don't know what plans you have for the weekend, but you should stop what you are doing and make these.

I am going to go out on a limb and proclaim these as MY MOST FAVORITE OF ALL THE DAYS PEANUT BUTTER COOKIE. 
Because saying "World's Best" is just so overdone.

They are a little crispy, chewy on the bottom, fudgy in the middle, and I am smitten with the crinkly tops sprinkled with sea salt. Also. They are delicious.

If you want to be virtuous you can tell your friends they are gluten and dairy free.

Salted Peanut Butter Cookies
adapted from Ovenly  and Smitten Kitchen

1 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
Coarse sea salt such as Maldon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl beat together the brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and peanut butter. Once all the ingredients come together it should have the look and feel of play-doh, this process takes a few minutes and you'll need to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl every now and then.

Pop the mixing bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes. This helps to create those lovely craggy tops. After 15 minutes stir the dough well. Use a 1/4 cup scoop (such as this one) to form the dough, and space evenly on the baking sheet. If you want your cookies to be rounded and high in the middle like the ones pictured, put the baking sheet with the portioned dough into the freezer for another 15 minutes. I typically get 16 cookies, the original recipe says 12. Sprinkle the tops with the sea salt and bake for 20 minutes. If you are baking two sheets of cookies at a time rotate the pans halfway through the baking time.

Remove from the oven and let the cookies sit on the baking sheets for 2 minutes before being removed to cool. I simply slide them off the baking sheet with the parchment paper and allow to cool on the counter.

- Do you need to freeze the dough? No, but the cookies will spread and have smoother tops. Not bad things mind you. You'll want to wait to sprinkle the salt on until after baking if this is the route you choose.
- Can I use a spoon to form the dough? Yes, but again the cookies won't look the same. Again, not a bad thing.
- Can I use natural peanut butter? Nope. The overall texture of the cookie will be different. This is a Skippy Peanut Butter all the way kind of situation, or maybe Jif if that's your thing.
- Sometimes I get little crispy almost burnt craggy bits on the edges of the baked cookie. Once cool I gently break them off to give the cookies a more uniform look.