Sunday, September 25

Pup - {Peanut Butter Dog Treats}

A nearby fan disturbs the floor-length blinds, shuffling the gaps through which the waking rays of sunlight can enter the room. Groggy, I find myself gradually become certain that the shifting lights are the only reason I'm awake, and slip, soothed, back into sleep.

The room is, otherwise, quite still.

It's too early for it not to be.


Soundless on the other couch, H is asleep with her dog, Kona. Leila, S's dog, is... Somewhere. Having not seen her under the weight of my fluttering eyelids before passing out, I didn't give her location much thought. Without a care, I'm at peace on S's deep blue couch, wholly cradled in the thick cushions and twisted in one of his many patterned throws.

Alternating periods of sleep and consciousness follow that initial moment, each one just as brief as the first. That is... Until it happens.

Being single and having fallen asleep alone, I had not anticipated waking up to a kiss on the lips. Startled, confused and quite uncomfortable to boot, I burrow deeper into the couch and jerk my head away from the offending pucker. The world around me comes into focus through widened eyes and before me I see not a man - but a dog.

Leila.

Smiling purely - as only a dog can - the "golden horse" (as H has taken to calling the beautiful leggy dog) has chosen to give me the selfless gift of a "good morning" kiss.

Lucky me.


I'm not used to dog kisses. Back home, when Buddy wanted to wake me up he would jump down from my bed and simply stare at me from the floor. If that wasn't enough, he'd whimper quietly - just enough to let me know that his poor little bladder needed some relief. Buddy has other ways of showing me his affection, which just didn't involve his puppy saliva all over my face.

But now, with the somewhat expectant smile lingering on Leila's face as I blink myself into a state of functionality, I'm learning to appreciate her almost comically-delivered kisses. She's a dog and she likes me.

It's a wonderful thing, and I've no need to complain.

... Or reciprocate ;)

Peanut Butter Dog Treats via Sweet Paul Magazine
You can make these treats any size you like for your sweet little pup! Maybe they're not super nutritious treats, but they're certainly a fun project. Get your kids involved - I'm sure they'd love to help!

Printable Recipe

1/2 c (118 ml) natural peanut butter
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 c (237 ml) water
1 1/2 c (213 g) whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c (213 g) all-purpose flour
Chopped peanuts, optional

In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, oil and water until smooth. Add the flours and work them in with a spatula or your hands until the dough is smooth. Form the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350F and line a few baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out the chilled dough to about 1/4" thickness and use a cookie cutter to cut out as many shapes as you can. Carefully transfer to the prepared sheets and press in chopped peanuts, if desired. Bake the cutouts until firm and set (I did about 10-12 minutes for these 2" treats), then cool on wire rack. Once cooled, store in an airtight container.

Saturday, September 17

Weekend - {Fauxreos}

In the business college at MSU, there are no classes scheduled on Fridays.

So, because I was certain to get all of my gen-eds out of the way between my freshman and sophomore years, I, finally, have no Friday classes.

Every Monday I wake up with a smile on my face, absolutely thrilled that I've just a four day "week" ahead. How fortunate is that?

I'm lucky, too, that my classes start at a reasonable time. Leaving around 8:45AM allows me to make the walk to campus a peaceful one, filled with slow strolling and an appreciation for the sunlight illuminating the world in the way that only morning light can. Bettered by a thermos full of tea, the mile-long dream walk through the neighborhood is quickly becoming my favorite way to wake up.


And what of class? When I arrive, I'm actually happy to be there - excited to finally be taking courses specific to my major and eager to hear what my profs have to say. There's a lot of reading to be done for class this year, but it's interesting at times and never awful except for the unavoidable fact that it's a bit of a time suck.

But as happy as I am in school, I restrict, to the best of my ability, as much homework as possible to that four day period.

Perhaps it's not something I should admit, but when Thursday evening rolls around, school ceases to exist.

Over the weekend I hang with friends, dirty my kitchen and pick up projects. I make more pies and cakes than socially acceptable and watch recorded episodes of The Martha Stewart Show in the early hours of the morning. Sometimes my friends and I wait around for hours at our favorite breakfast place or take adventures to the sketchy side of town to pick up Craigslist-sourced pallets (more on those later). We cook. We shop. We watch Parks and Rec and Cowboy Bebop and pass out on each others couches.


It's a fabulously simple lifestyle, and certainly one I don't mean to brag about. I'm simply recording this here because I don't want to forget it. I've started looking into internships and am quite hopeful about the idea of getting one, but it's made me realize that this way-of-life - filled with a lovely but lazy lack of true responsibility - will soon be coming to an end.

I've only so much time to be young and stupid, and I'll be damned if I don't take advantage of it while I can.

Fauxreos adapted from Brave Tart
These certainly won't get rid of your Oreo craving more quickly than a run to the store, but they're more fulfilling to make and just as good!

Printable Recipe

Chocolate Wafers

6 Tbsp (85 g) butter, room temperature
1/2 c (106 g) sugar
5 Tbsp (43 g) brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp espresso powder
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
3/4 c + 1 Tbsp (113 g) flour, sifted
1 c (85 g) cocoa powder, sifted

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, white sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, espresso powder and vanilla until thoroughly mixed. With the mixer still running, add in the egg yolks one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula well after each addition.

After the yolks have all been incorporated, add the flour and cocoa. Mix on low speed until uniform and stiff. Scrape the sides of the bowl using a rubber spatula and knead a few times to form a smooth ball. Flatten into a disc.

At this point, the dough may be rolled right away or wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to a week.

If you choose to refrigerate the dough, make sure you allow it to soften at room temp before rolling.

Otherwise, preheat oven to 350F. Dust the counter with cocoa powder (better than flour because it ensures they will not have a white powdery finish) and roll the dough to a thickness of 1/8". When the dough has been rolled, loosen it from the counter with a spatula to prevent sticking.

Using a 2" round cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can. Use a metal spatula to place them on an ungreased baking sheet. The cookies won't spread during baking, so you can place them quite close to one another. Set the baking sheets aside while you repeat the process with the scraps.

After cutting rounds from the re-rolled scraps, place remaining scraps into a mixing bowl. Add 1 tsp of hot water and coffee and mix thoroughly. Continue adding more hot water or coffee, a teaspoon at a time, until you reach a piping consistency.

Transfer the softened dough to a piping bag fitted with a very small tip and pipe your preferred decoration onto the cut rounds. Stella recommends a tight cornelli, which I thought worked quite well, but you can do whatever you like!

Bake the bedecked cookies for about 12 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Do not wait for them to brown because browning chocolate cookies = burning chocolate cookies! Once the cookies have baked, set the baking sheet on a rack and cool thoroughly.

Frosting

4 Tbsp (58 g) shortening or unsalted butter at room temperature
1 c - 2 Tbsp (142 g) powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt

Cream together the shortening/butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt until very light and fluffy, about five minutes. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl then beat again briefly to incorporate.

Transfer the filling to a pastry bag fitted with a small- to medium-sized round tip.

Assembly

Flip half the cookies upside down and pipe a spiral of frosting onto the upside down cookies. Top with another cookie and press gently to seal. Transfer prepared cookies to a sealed container and refrigerate for a few hours to set the frosting and bond the wafers.

Wednesday, September 7

Place - {Lemon Meringue Pie}

I like kitchens.

I spend a lot of my free time in them.

Especially mine, which, although nothing extraordinary, I honestly believe could only be improved by the addition of a couch. But, considering the fact that a kitchen couch is not particularly practical, maybe just some art. You know, when I recover from buying textbooks. Yipes.


Anyway, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that it’s my happy place. Baking and cooking are relaxing activities, so I’m in good spirits when I’m in the kitchen.

Last weekend, I found myself standing happily in front of the oven at two in the morning, aimlessly shifting my weight from left to right while waiting for a meringue to brown and set. I busied myself by straightening the beat-up and mismatched dishtowels hanging on the oven door, hanging them, freshly folded, on either side of the oven window. It was only after ensuring that the towels were evenly matched that I, feeling quite satisfied, warranted myself a peek through the glass. Behind it, I watched caramelized patches appear and spread over the surface of the fluffy meringue cloud, replacing the satin white finish with a blanket of warm amber.


The kitchen timer exhausted itself with a rapid series of beeps and I removed the pie from the oven without flourish. Resting peacefully on a cooling rack, I attacked the remaining pale spots with my kitchen torch - for good measure – and asked C to put the pie in the fridge when he went to bed.

It was nearly three in the morning when I flipped the light switch and buried myself in blankets. I felt fulfilled, but I needed sleep.

The following day, I drove that pie out to my Grandparent’s place where it was served, and even consumed in some cases, in their kitchen.

Their kitchen where I stood, drinking tea, talking to relatives, rinsing dishes, stirring pots on the stove and eating more of Grandma’s peach cobbler than I really should have.

All the while marveling over the fact that I was so comfortable just being there.


Where I belong.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Printable Recipe

Pie Crust

1 c (142 g) flour
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbls (118 g) butter, cut into 1/4" cubes and chilled
4 Tbls water, cold

Combine the flour and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Add the butter, then cut in using two forks, a pastry blender, or your hands. Continue working in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add just enough water to bring the dough together and knead a few times to ensure that the flour is evenly moistened. Press into a 1" thick disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to two days.

When ready to roll, dust your counter with flour. Remove the dough from the fridge and let rest on the counter for 5 minutes to allow to warm slightly and become more workable. Roll the dough into a circle large enough to fit a 9" pie dish and transfer to the pan by rolling the dough around your pin and draping it over the top. Roll up the edge of the dough and use your fingers or a fork to create a decorative edge. Prick with a fork and place in the freezer.

Heat your oven to 425F. When it comes to temperature, line the prepared pie crust with parchment, aluminum foil or coffee filters and fill it with dry rice or beans. Bake 20 minutes, then remove the foil/parchment/filters along with the beans/rice and bake 5-10 minutes longer until nicely brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack while you prepare the filling.

Lemon Filling and Meringue via Allrecipes

4 egg yolks, room temp
1 c (200g) sugar
2 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 c water
2 lemons, juiced and zested
2 Tbsp butter, room temp
Baked pie crust
4 egg whites, room temp
6 Tbsp white sugar

Preheat oven to 350F (175C).

Place the egg yolks in a large heatproof bowl. Beat them briefly, then set aside.

Combine the cup of sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir in the water, lemon juice and lemon zest, then turn the burner on to medium-high. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture comes to a boil. Stir in the butter. Remove the pan from heat and pour about 1/2 c of the hot sugar mixture into the beaten egg yolks, whisking immediately after the addition. Pour the egg yolks into the sugar mixture and return the pan to the heat. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until very thick. Remove from heat and Pour filling into the prepared pie crust.

In a large and very clean glass or metal bowl, whip the egg whites until foamy. With the mixer running, gradually add the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar and continue beating until you have stiff peaks. Spread the meringue over the hot filling, sealing the edges at the crust.

Bake for about 10 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown. Place briefly under the broiler or use a kitchen torch if more browning is desired.