For Everyday Life

I’ll confess – I meant to leave you with a sweet treat before heading out for vacation, I swear it. Because I knew that when I got back, I’d be cutting back on the sweets for a while. The truth is, I totally forgot to, and there’s really no excuse other than that. I opened up this here site after another week of being away from it and saw that I’d started this post, meaning I’d added the pictures and the recipe according to my usual system of doing things, but that was it.

Funny how things like that happen, eh?

Anywho, we’re back from the weirdest vacation I think I’ll ever take (in a totally good way) and I’ll tell you all about it once I get the chance to clean up the pics and sit here for a while. But the summary is this: we had a bunch of quick, fun trips from the Midwest through the Deep South, and I’m not kidding when I say we ate our way through each and every stop. You won’t be surprised to hear that we even found a few wineries along the way.

But we’ll get to the rest later – promise.

Today, I wanted to finally share these gingersnaps, since I didn’t manage to pull through last month. More ginger cookies? Why, yes. Sure, we have graham crackers and triple ginger cookies already, but can you have too much ginger? I think not. Plus, they’re all just a little bit different. Graham crackers? Well, silly, those are for s’mores (there’s a gluten-free version, too!). Triple ginger cookies? Those are for eating over the Holidays with a mug of spiced (or spiked) cider at the fireplace. Gingersnaps? These are for everyday life.

These aren’t nearly as crisp as the ones in the goldenrod bag that you buy from the snack aisle in the grocery store. These are crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle. They remind me of a cool, fall Chicago morning – those mornings you wake up to and just know they’ll be perfect. They’re meant to be eaten on a day when the leaves are falling, crisp and brilliantly colored – brick, burnt orange, and pumpkin-tinged. For days when the sun glistens through the trees and reflects brightly off the windows, but the breeze around the corner provides that perfect counter-attack against the heat that is slowly waning for the year. Man, I miss those mornings some kinda bad.

If you’re like me, and perhaps those sure-fire signs of Fall aren’t quite lining up for you the way you’d like, that’s fine too. Summer in October suits me just as well, truth be told. Either way, gingersnaps are a welcome addition to any day – warm, breezy, and fall-ish or sunny, clear, and reminiscent of July.

from David Lebovitz’s Ready For Dessert; makes 60

time commitment: 2 hours (includes 1 hour for the dough to chill)

printable version

3 c all purpose flour
2 1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 1/2 t g cinnamon
2 t g ginger
1 1/2 t fresh g pepper
1/2 t g cloves
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/4 c sugar
1/4 molasses
1 t vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temp
turbinado or regular granulated sugar, for coating the cookies

in a medium bowl, combine flour through ground cloves and whisk until mixed well.

in a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, combine butter and sugar, mixing on medium until smooth. mix in molasses and vanilla, then add eggs one at a time, until thoroughly incorporated. add flour mixture and mix until completed combined.

divide the dough into four pieces. lightly flour a surface and roll each piece into an ~8″ log, then roll up in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour (alternatively you can freeze for less time).

preheat oven to 350 F. pour coating sugar into a small bowl. working with one log at a time, slice into 1/2″ cookies, and press one side of each cookie into the sugar, then place the other side down on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet. bake for ~10 minutes. if using two sheets, rotate sheets halfway through to even cooking of each sheet. remove, let cool for a few minutes, and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

ps – you can store the dough in the fridge or freezer if you want to bake sections off at a time. or you can do it all at once – whatevs. 

Sous Chef

There is undoubtedly a yin yang-type vibe going on when it comes to having your house on the market. It’s über clean, which is exactly awesome. And when you have to repaint your walls, a process I like to call “borifying”, it appears less like your own home and thus easier to say goodbye to, when the time comes.

At the same time, it makes having company, which is one of our favorite things in the world, a little bit trying. It makes cooking in your kitchen, the one that got you loving cooking in the first place, even more daunting. What it doesn’t do is stop us from doing either one of the above – we embrace the challenge, our guests embrace the challenge, and we charge ahead.

It helps when you have an organized sous chef at your disposal – just ask my friend, Caroline. One of my favorite sisters-in-law and her two girls managed to squeeze in a trip to the Windy City prior to our inevitable, not to mention fast approaching, departure, and while we braved the cold a few times, we also managed to find plenty to do indoors as well.

In the event that you’re a little slow to catch on today, one of them involved cooking. And while I didn’t have anything fancy planned since cooking for kids isn’t my specialty and kids don’t seem to like fancy food but rather things like plain chicken and rice, it ended up not being the finished product that was so awesome this time – it was all the help along the way.

Our dinner consisted of a recipe similar to this gem, but sans recipe and preparation, and with cheese stuffed into the middle, along with soup that reminded me of this recipe, but with some sweet potatoes tossed alongside the squash. A salad finished, or rather started the meal off. As far as the adults were concerned, it was a good meal thrown together in a couple of hours, mostly courtesy of my sous chef, Lee Ann, who I have yet to figure out how to permanently steal from her mother.

We decided our meal was only lacking in one small item: dessert. A quick hand-off of cleaning duties and a few page-turns later we were set, once I managed to find a recipe that wouldn’t involve a grocery store run (this part was actually pretty easy, since a stranded family of 10 could survive on our kitchen inventory for weeks).

Not only can this newly acquired (or rather, soon to be kidnapped) sous chef of mine successfully bread chicken with the skill of a Southern housewife, but she’s also more organized than a high school librarian – a quality of utmost importance in chef-world. She labeled each item in her mise en place, her ordered by step mise en place, including (how cute is this!) “needs 2 b melted” on the stick of butter. She (almost) read all of the instructions before starting to bake, and we only forgot to read the step that said “let chill overnight”, which we decided wasn’t going to happen, and it worked out just fine.

I realize now that my goal in life (aside from the B&B in Napa) is to procreate. Not just procreate any ol’ kid, but one that will measure flour and peanut butter with me, and one that will wear my apron (or her/his own, I reckon) and read my cookbooks. One that will carefully plate our peanut butter cookies and serve them to guests with a smile on her face. One that will insist on changing a recipe no matter how good it is the way it’s written because really, what kind of cookie isn’t better with chocolate chips?!

Yep, that’s the plan – one day. For now though, I’m going to settle for kidnapping.

Peanut Butter ‘Surprise’ Cookies
Adapted, barely, from Ready for Dessert; makes 30

time commitment: 1 hour + 2 hours chilling the dough (we skipped this part…)

printable version

my niece decided that 1 cup of peanut butter just wasn’t enough for dessert, so we found some chocolate chips in the pantry and added those. it was her decision to change the name to “peanut butter surprise” given this new ingredient. you could definitely leave them out, but why not toss ’em in?!

1 1/4 c all purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 c unsalted butter
1/2 c sugar, plus more for coating cookies
1/2 c light brown sugar
1 c creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

in a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. set aside.

using a hand mixer, beat together the butter, sugars, and peanut butter in a large bowl, on medium speed until smooth. beat in the egg. add flour mixture and mix until dough comes together. knead in the chocolate chips, if using.

cover dough and refrigerate for 2 hours, if possible. remove and let come to room temperature.

preheat oven to 350 F and position racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven. line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silpat, and pour a little sugar in a small bowl.

roll pieces of dough into 1-inch balls and roll them into the sugar. place on baking sheet and repeat to fill. flatten cookies with a fork, making a cross-hatch shape. if dough comes apart a little, just squeeze it back together – no biggie.

bake until cookies begin to brown around the edges but still look raw – about 10 minutes. remove and let cool on sheets, then on wire rack.