Pumpkin (Spice) Sugar Cookies

What is it about the word “spice” following the word “pumpkin” that automatically makes a recipe sound cliché? Is that just me? Thanks to Starbucks and the seasonal pumpkin spice latte craze, every fall everyone and their recipe developers try to come up with the best pumpkin spice whatever. A quick perusal through Pinterest will offer you recipes for PS cream cheese, PS muddy buddies, PS chex mix, PS French toast, PS “bedtime drink” (curious?). Wasn’t there a time that pumpkin flavored sweets kinda just implied “plus spices”? Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice, in some combination or other? When I think of pumpkin muffins, I don’t exactly picture chunks of squash peeking out of the tops like apples. Whatever we have ultimately decided to name these seasonal orange treats, some are worth further investigation and appreciation.

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I recently tried a riff on this annual phenomenon with my favorite baking vehicle (cookies): soft and chewy with just enough pumpkin flavor to remind you of your mom’s pumpkin pie, without having to dust off the pie dish.

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Pumpkin (Spice) Sugar Cookies
yields around 40 cookies

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract1 egg
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup bread flour (all-purpose flour will also do)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 cup sugar for rolling cookie dough
Instructions
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, and pumpkin purée. Gradually add the dry ingredients. Chill the dough in the fridge for 2-4 hours.

Roll the dough into one inch balls and coat evenly with sugar. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes, or until the tops start to crack.

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Neat trick: if you don’t have an electric mixer, use a fork to aerate the butter and sugar after you’ve combined them with a spoon.

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Don’t forget your rubber scraper!
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Great with milk

Have you ever had a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks? Please tell me what it’s like!

The Art of Dining Solo

Some time ago when I went to Portland, Maine, I was able to experience dining for one. There’s something about sitting at a table with a bowl full of hot ramen (or is it pho now) in front of you that you can enjoy without exchanging words with a comrade in between slurps. By default, I’m someone who doesn’t mind doing things unaccompanied. Sometimes I get stressed out at the art museum when I want to see the Modern and Contemporary Art, as a friend trails behind politely waiting for their chance to explore the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts. Now and then, things are easier flying solo. While I would prefer to spend a Saturday evening at the local haunt with friends over myself, sometimes it’s nice to spend time with your thoughts and delicious food appreciation. And I did just that in Portland, many times, and could not have been more content. Here’s why dining solo can be great, and how to make the most out of your time with *you*.

1. Being seated right away

Most of the places I wanted to check out were pretty bumpin’ spots, not to mention the Bon Appétit spread that had come out weeks previously that brought the masses; so there were definitely waits at almost every restaurant I hit up. Luckily, it’s usually easy to seat one person, particularly if the restaurant has a bar or communal table. Where couples would wait 30 minutes to get into a lunch spot, I would step in after no more than 8 minutes.

 

2. Sitting at the bar

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Sitting at the bar is one of the restaurant power moves, alone or not. Oftentimes this is where the cool kids squat who have insider info on the town and other food spots to hit up. If you’re traveling, ask the bartenders and your neighbors where they go on their nights off and what fun things you can do in the area. If you’re apprehensive about starting a conversation, don’t forget to smile. Someone may just start one for you. If you’re not into conversation (you’re out on your own, after all), you may have a front row seat to the kitchen – check out the action!

 
pdx-2016_carmen-ladipo_191Fun fact: the bar you’re sitting at will most likely have hooks underneath for you to hang bags and jackets (shown above). Genius.

 

3. The bill

No worrying about bringing cash / keeping track of cards / finding someone on Venmo / somehow getting shortchanged because you didn’t get a drink. It will save you time and energy for more local frolics.
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Go forth and dine, no matter the plans of your squad.

 

The Truth is in the Tofu (Pancakes)

Some time ago, my friend Kristen Miglore was testing a waffle recipe of another friend, Hannah Kirshner, for her Genius Recipes column on Food52. You may know that I don’t usually dilly dally with special diet recipes, but this is another one of those recipes that is delicious while happening to be vegan. I agree that this sounds crazy: a waffle whose ingredients include silken tofu, lemon juice, and coconut oil. But not only are the waffles vegan, they’re great. The most distinct characteristic of these tofu waffles is the texture. When they come out of the waffle iron, they are the most crispy on the outside, and almost custardy soft on the inside. But the weirdest thing of all the weird things is that you can’t taste the tofu! This is mostly due in part to the coconut oil taking most of the flavor responsibilities. So if you’re not into coconut, you may have to change the oil.

Being without a waffle iron, I was curious to see if these waffles would act similarly in pancake form.

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And they sure did! I found that after being off the griddle and on the counter for a few minutes, the pancake exterior became soft, but the insides remained like custard in a soft shell. These are the pancakes you’ll want to pour maple syrup all over, to not detract from the texture, and to help enhance the simple flavor.

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Best Ever Pancakes
Original recipe by Hannah Kirshner, Genius Recipe’d by Kristen Miglore

12 oz silken tofu
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup coconut oil
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Optional: syrup/yogurt/butter to serve

Use a blender to blend the tofu, water and lemon juice until smooth. Gradually add the coconut oil and blend until combined.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix the blended ingredients until just combined.

Generously oil a skillet and put on medium-low heat. When the skillet is hot, put your desired amount of batter in the skillet and wait to flip until the edges lose their shine and bubbles form. Keep your pancakes in an oven or toaster oven at 325° until ready to serve. And syrup, yogurt, and/or butter if desired.

 

How To: Muddy Buddies! (Video)

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Also known as puppy chow, this was a college party (read: potluck) favorite back in the day. It takes six ingredients, and it’s a lot of fun to make. I made a video to prove it:

Here’s your recipe

Ingredients
9 cups of Chex cereal, in any variety you prefer
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) salted butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Directions
Put the cereal in a very large bowl and set aside. Microwave the chocolate, peanut butter, and butter in a bowl until melted and smooth, about 40 seconds. Add the vanilla extract and stir. Pour this over the cereal and combine gently until the cereal is coated evenly. Place the cereal in a gallon sized ziploc bag and add the powdered sugar. Shake well until all the powdered sugar has stuck to the cereal. Lay out to dry for 10 minutes if you can wait,  then serve!

 

It’s great with milk, actually….

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“behind/above the scenes”

 

Beach Baguette

This is a simple yet incredible sandwich I made my mom and myself for the beach. The inspiration came from a nearly identical sandwich I had at Whole Foods, and even though I try to avoid shopping there whenever possible, sometimes their lunch is very convenient and occasionally worth the price.

The sandwich I bought was in a baguette which was the first sign of greatness. In the sandwich was brie, apple slices, and thick cold cuts of turkey. Sounds simple, which it is, but it has all the texture needs and flavor combos: soft and crunchy, savory and sweet. Easy to make and easier to pack for the beach. No fuss, no mess. There was leftover grilled chicken in the fridge, so we used that. Here it is:

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BAT (Brie Apple Turkey) Sandwich

Makes 2

Ingredients

One baguette

About one wedge of brie cheese

1 granny smith apple

4 slices smoked turkey or whichever white meat you have around

Dijon Mustard

Mayonnaise

Cut the tips off of the baguette (save for Nutella scoopers later). Cut in half vertically and horizontally, making two sandwich shells. Coat the bottom slices with dijon mustard and the top slices with mayonnaise. Cut thick slices of brie, about 1/8 inch thick, and lay onto the bottom halves of bread. Next, cut the apple into slices slightly thinner than the brie, and lay one layer above the brie. Lastly, add two slices of turkey to each sandwich, then close it up. Pack in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready for the beach.

Of course, feel free to adjust the proportions to your liking, my own seem to be a good average. If you’re wary of apples with cheese, thinner slices will be a good gateway into a whole new world.

Enjoy the beach! The water is perfect rn.

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5 Ways to Use Speculoos (video)

Hey y’all, happy August! I’ve been playing around with beach snacks and fast sweet treats. Cookie butter, also known as speculoos spread, is one of my favorite things that comes out of a jar. Check out the video I made about how to eat it!

If you have some cookie butter in the cupboard and you don’t know what to do with it, here are the five things:

1. Dip sliced apples into it like peanut butter. Quick, easy, sweet, kinda nutritious.

2. Spread onto toast. Really lets the speculoos flavor come through.

3. Put it on ice cream. If you microwave a small bowl of the spread until it liquefies, it will harden like a chocoalte shell once it hits the ice cream. Textury delight!

4. Make it a filling for cookies. If you’re making a batch of cookies, or even want to spice up some store-bought cookie dough, a speculoos filling will surprise friends and taste great.

5. Eat with a spoon. Why not? Fewer calories, right?

Looking for more ways? Check out my speculoos rice crispy treats here!

These Days’ Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

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It’s been some time since I last gave you a chocolate chip recipe of mine, even though I always refer to my constant struggle to find the best recipe. While it is a constant struggle, I’ve been on a break to work on a fun and exciting Nutella cookie…more on this to come. In the meantime, I will leave you with my latest chocolate chip cookie recipe. And I’m not going to belabor the definition of the best chocolate chip cookie, because it’s different for everyone. There’s a quote from market researcher and spaghetti sauce selling extraordinaire Howard Moskowitz pointing out this phenomenon, when describing an experiment with one of his first clients: “There was no such thing as the perfect Diet Pepsi. They should have been looking for the perfect Diet Pepsis” (from Malcolm Gladwell’s essay “The Ketchup Conundrum”).

The point is not that I read a Malcolm Gladwell essay (you should too, though) but that I can’t tell you what the best chocolate chip cookie recipe is. If you happen to enjoy yours chewy on the inside,  butterscotchy, and full of chocolate like I do, this will get you in the right direction.

Happy baking!

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Chewy Chocolatey Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yields around 35 cookies

1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 cups chocolate chips/chunks

Brown the butter on the stove, constantly stirring. Transfer to a heat resistant bowl and let cool. When the butter is cool, combine with sugars and vanilla. Mix in the eggs. Gradually fold in the flour, baking soda, and salt until just combined. Add the chocolate morsels. If you have time, chill in the fridge for 4 hours to overnight.

Bake in the oven at 375° for 8-10 minutes or until the edges are browning and the center is almost-but-not-quite-done. Let cool on the cookie tray.