Recipe: Apple Crisp

Have I ever told you that I'm a terrible cook? I can make donuts and cakes no problem and pride myself in being able to whip up a really great creme brûlée, but cooking just never seems to turn out right. I try to taste as I go and I follow the recipe in front of me, but I'm rarely excited by anything I cook. But with the heavy snow a few weeks ago + living on a small street in Philadelphia that's low on the plow list, I suggested we stay in and cook at home even though that makes me uneasy. We kept it simple: pasta, Italian chicken sausage, a salad, and apple crisp. Why apple crisp? Because A) I always have 90% of the ingredients on-hand, B) It's one of my favorite desserts and everyone likes it, and C) if dinner is a disaster, at least we have apple crisp we can smother in ice cream and forget about it.

All in all, nothing with dinner was a disaster (because it was pasta, even I can manage that), we ate at my dining room table and I remembered to light the candles, and then we promptly devoured half this pan of apple crisp. Done deal. 

Apple Crisp

Yields 6–8 servings

For filling:
4 apples (2 granny smiths, 4 honey crisps), sliced
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

For topping:
1 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup quick oats
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and butter a 9x9 inch glass baking pan.

Mix sliced apples with flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar until apples are coated. Set aside. In a medium sized bowl, mix melted butter and vanilla with flour, oats, and brown sugar. Add apples to the greased baking pan and even them out. Using your fingers, crumb the topping into small pieces over the top of the apples. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden brown and apples tender. Top with ice cream and maybe a little caramel sauce. Eat leftovers for breakfast.

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Around Here

I have to say, January has been a perfect birthday month and great way to kick off 2016. I had a dreamy birthday weekend. I woke up the morning of my birthday and cried a little because I felt so loved and happy (I'm odd). I have a new person to spend time with and get to know. (<3). And all in all, it's been a month full of friends and laughing and honestly, that's how I want every month to be.

I reflected on 2015 a little bit in my last personal post, but I think the end of the year into the beginning of 2016 really helped me realize that putting myself out there and moving to a new city was worth it. I think I questioned that decision (never out loud) a lot during 2015. I worried I made the wrong choice lying on the sofa in my un-airconditioned house when it was 98 degrees with 70 percent humidity. I worried I made the wrong choice when I realized I was growing apart from friends I thought I cared about deeply. I worried I made the wrong choice when I lied in bed on Sunday mornings to the 8am hum of power tools as they worked on every unoccupied house on my block. But, we're all growing up and figuring it out. Growing apart and growing closer together. I think in the past year I've learned more about myself than I ever have. I've created an independent life for myself. I've tried to be there for my friends and family when they needed me. I put myself out there. I've let myself be vulnerable and saw where it led. And then did it again when I was hurt. I travelled and created memories I'll cherish. The past year has been a rollercoaster, and though I do look back and remember being overwhelmed and, frankly, sad, I also know that I learned a lot about how to grow and overcome.

So hooray for feeling good. And happy. And dreaming of what this year has to offer. 

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Recipe: The "Underbaked" Sugar Cookie

Can we just take a moment and talk about sugar cookies?

I never considered myself the biggest sugar cookie lover. I mean, don't get me wrong, sugar cookies have always been fine but we so many other choices for cookies it always seemed like the vanilla ice cream of the cookie world. Definitely good, but if you were going to make cookies, why not add chocolate chips or cinnamon or oatmeal! So many possibilities! But recently, I've found myself buying those slice-and-bake sugar cookies with the pictures in the middle because I can have warm cookies in under 10 minutes without any dishes. Also, if you buy them after whatever holiday they're celebrating, you can find them in the discounted section of the supermarket for 99cents. 

So I decided to try and figure out an easy sugar cookie recipe that matched the perfectly underbaked sugar cookie that I've been getting from the lovely folks at Pillsbury. The taste is definitely not identical, but these cookies give you that sweet, vanilla-y underdone chewiness but they're homemade. Win/win.

"Underbaked" Sugar Cookies

Yields 2 dozen cookies

2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoon buttermilk
ainbow sprinkles

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in egg and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Gradually blend in dry ingredients with the wet until just combined. Add in just enough buttermilk to moisten the dough and make it soft, but not wet. For me, this was about 1 1/2 tablespoon of buttermilk. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes until slightly hardened.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on the lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. These cookies are going to spread a bit. Using the bottom of a glass, very lightly press down each ball to slightly flatten to top, brush with extra buttermilk, and top with sprinkles.

Now, we want these to be just slightly underdone. I baked mine for 8 minutes, but you'll want to watch them carefully. Because I know my oven runs a little hot, I timed my first batch for 5 minutes and then added additional time in 1 minute increments. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. Store cool cookies in a airtight container.  

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Sunday Thoughts

Hi! How have you been? I know I haven't been checking in here as much as I should be. We are somehow almost finished the first month of 2016 and it's just been whizzing by me. I don't know how that has happened, but since it's 10 degrees here in Philadelphia, I can't say I'm complaining. I'm dreaming of warmer Spring days right about now. But, winter invites the opportunity to stay in on Sunday mornings. It's too cold to go to brunch or run errands. It's "stay in bed until noon drinking tea and attempting to read but then end up binge watching Arrested Development for the third time" weather. Brrrrr....

In the meantime:

Recipe: Funfetti Sprinkle Cake

My birthday is this weekend and I'm pretty excited. Like, maybe stupidly excited.

I took a few days off from work to make the weekend longer and I have a handful of things planned (including some quality friend time dancing at the go-go bar!) and I'm excited to both relax and bop around the city. 25 was an age of figuring out how to live my life and who I want in my life. A ton of ups and downs. A lot of wondering what the hell is going on and a lot of trying to move onwards and upwards. I moved out of my comfort zone and into a house in the city. I built a new career for myself at my job. I paid off my car. I let myself be vulnerable and got a little hurt. I found people who I love spending my time with. I did what I wanted. I traveled alone and with some great friends. I tried to have a lot of fun. I think I set a high expectation and it maybe wasn't exactly what I expected. But no regrets. Just lessoned learned and moving forward. I'm hoping 26 has slightly more clarity, a lot of changes, and most of all, a lot of laughing. 

So here's a birthday cake I made for myself and covered in sprinkles. Because you deserve all the sprinkles on your birthday.

Yellow Funfetti Cake

Yields 8 slices

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup rainbow sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prep two 9 inch cake pans by coating in butter and a thin layer of flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar for 5 minutes until fluffy and light yellow. Add in each egg until combined. Scrape down the bowl.

In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to remove any lumps and combine ingredients. Mix a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, then mix in half the buttermilk. Add another third of dry ingredients, then the second half of the buttermilk and vanilla, and finally the last bit of dry ingredients, mixing just enough to combined. Scrape down the bowl and fold in sprinkles with a plastic spatula until sprinkles are evenly distributed in the batter.

Split the batter evenly between the two 9 inch cake pans and bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in their pans for 10 minutes, then finish cooling on a cooling rack.

Vanilla Buttercream

Yields enough for a two 9-inch cakes

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4 cups confectionery sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
A LOT of rainbow nonpareils sprinkles (optional)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter for about 5 minutes on medium speed until fluffy and light. Add in 3 cups of confectionery sugar and mix on low speed until combined. Add in milk and vanilla, mix on low, and then add in the last cup of sugar. Raise speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes until frosting is fluffy. If you like a thicker frosting, add small amount of sugar until it reaches the desired texture.

To assemble the cake, place one cake on the platter which you plan to serve the cake. Using a rubber or offset spatula, spread about a 1/2 inch thickness of frosting on the top of the cake. Place a pile of frosting in the center of the cake, and spread outward. Place your second cake on top and repeat that process on the top of the cake. To do the sides, use an offset spatula to work your way around the cake, making sure all the cake is covered. Once the entire cake is covered in frosting, use your offset spatula to smooth out the sides and top.

A tiny tip: If you don't want to get frosting all over your cake stand, take strips of wax paper and slide them underneath the bottom cake so the cake stand is covered. Once you are done frosting, slide the wax paper out and throw it away, leaving a clean base to display the cake.

To cover the cake in sprinkles, simply pour nonpareils over the top of the cake and lightly press them into place with your hands. I found the easiest way to do the sides was filling a spoon with nonpareils and then working them off the spoon and onto the sides of the cake downwards. I will warn you that this takes a pretty good amount of time. 

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