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Food, Recipes

Heart Shaped Peanut Butter Cookies

It is officially the month of amore, with Valentine’s Day lurking just around the corner and it makes us all go a little heart shaped crazy. Not everyone is a fan of Valentine’s Day. It can be a bit commercial and overdone, but what I love about these cookies in particular is that you really don’t necessarily need a Valentine to make and enjoy these cookies. Go ahead and make them for yourself…self love, am I right?!

I always look at Valentine’s as a time to show just about anyone I love how much they are appreciated. I don’t like a whole lot of fanfare and grand gestures, but these cookies are an inexpensive and touching way to show you care. I pick up a heart shaped container from the Dollar General store, along with a bag of Valentine’s Day edition M&M’s, make a batch of these cookies and call it a day.

I always like to use a good peanut butter dough for this recipe, because it has some heft and will hold its shape really well for these particular cookies. You want them to look like hearts once they are baking, as opposed to amorphous blobs, and consistency of peanut butter cookie dough allows this to happen. This also means that you do not need a cookie cutter or any fancy tools, just your own two hands. The result is a really cute, rustic and homemade shaped heart that I find particularly endearing.

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Favorite Bakeries, Featured, Food, Inspiration

The List – Southern Bakery Tour 2024

In the spirit of resolutions in the new year, I have set my sights on a list of bakeries that I wish to visit in 2024. Think of it as a reverse resolution to…eat more? This past year has been one of research and full immersion in all things baking-related, for me. I am coming up on one year since reestablishing this website, and throughout 2023, I poured myself in to learning and cultivating skills related to the art of baking at a very steady pace. My appetite has been voracious, and can only be attributed to pure passion.

I am what you might refer to as a “Bake-a-Saurus Rex.” Ok, maybe that is only how I refer to myself. My fella will enter the kitchen in the morning to find every inch of the countertops covered in baking ingredients and parchment lined baking pans as far as the eye can see. I am somewhere lurching in the distance in my apron, dusted in flour and furiously thumbing through the pages of one cookbook or another. He will pause and cautiously say…”Hmmm. What are we making today?!” God love him and his patience for my predilection towards all things baking.

I can’t tell you what has driven it, but I have grown to simply LOVE the act of baking. I wake up thinking about what I want to make each day, and I fall asleep scanning recipes online. I read cookbooks, I scour Instagram, I watch tutorial videos galore, and I have been experimenting in the kitchen more than ever. I am a woman possessed. And with all of the inevitable trials and errors that come from learning to bake (believe me there is a LOT to learn) I find myself having an incredibly healthy appreciation for the pros that do this day in and day out, churning out ungodly amounts of pastries for the masses.

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Favorite Recipes, Food, Recipes

Crispy, Cheesy, Potato Shallot Galette

I believe the title to this post really sums it all up. If you are a potato lover like me, this recipe is a MUST make. If you have a cast iron skillet and a mandolin, you will end up with a showstopping side dish.

I will admit that I actually made an error when making this recipe the first time, and the photos show you the end result. I should have sliced my potatoes much, much thinner, but it turned out to be a pleasant error. While the dismount of this galette was a major fail, it was absolutely delicious, crispy and cheese, so I see it as a win.

Essentially, if you would like to make a traditional galette that flips from the pan and looks like a giant potato cake that you can serve in slices, you want to use a mandolin to slice your potatoes razor thin. By doing so, it allows the potatoes to kind of meld together while baking and form the desired galette formation that slides beautifully from the pan when flipped.

This was actually my first official galette on my own, and as you can see, the potatoes were sliced a bit too thick and they came out as a beautiful cast iron skillet full of roasted potatoes, which is ok too. You can see that mine are too loose to flip onto a plate, so if this happens to you, I suggest serving right out of the skillet on the table…just be sure to use caution with the hot pan and dress it appropriately with towels. To be honest, I may intentionally make this mistake in the future because I was so pleased with how these turned out. They were an absolute hit with my family.

I will try a proper version next time around and post my results, but trial and error is the best way to learn, especially when the result is delicious, crispy, cheesy potatoes!

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Favorite Bakeries, Favorite Recipes, Recipes

Honey Oat Cookies

There are many bakeries that are on my list to try in 2024, and Back in the Day Bakery is at the very top. Over Christmas, a good friend gifted me their lovely cookbook, which is chock full of the most delicious baking recipes, both sweet and savory. I love to sit down with a cup of tea and peruse my cookbooks. It is one of my very favorite past times. This book already has recipe after recipe earmarked to add to the 2024 baking roster for my very own little test kitchen, right here in Bluffton, SC.

I have to give kudos to my friend Savannah in giving me this cookbook. Not only is it completely up my alley, but I honestly (and I’m not sure how) had never caught wind of this landmark bakery that exists right here in my own back yard!! It is a stone’s throw from my home, located in the beautifully eclectic downtown Savannah, GA. I will be publishing a list of bakeries that I wish to visit in 2024 for inspiration, to hold myself accountable for a few road trips this year, but this one will easily be added to the top.

When I cracked open this cookbook, I was impressed with how organized the chapters are laid out and assembled, by category and flavor. It appeals to my categorical Virgo nature. There are many intriguing options within this book, but this recipe for Honey Oat Cookies grabbed me as the first to try for a few reasons.

First, I absolutely LOVE the combo of oats, honey and chocolate. It is a such a hearty and delicious combo, especially with the hint of cinnamon, crunch of coconut and tinge of sea salt added in. Even if you aren’t a big coconut fan, as I know many are averse to the consistency, these have just the right amount to add flavor without overwhelming the cookie. Second, it is the beginning of the year, and with all of the oats involved in this recipe, it is practically health food, am I right?!

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Food, Recipes

Classic Buttery Popovers

For the longest time, I have admired popovers for their delicious simplicity, but have avoided making them because they call for their own, special pan with high walls with a thin cylindrical shape in order for the dough to rise and cook evenly and properly. But, my desire for warm, soft biscuits finally overtook my hesitation. Hunger always wins for me! This recipe calls for the simplest of ingredients that about everyone has in their pantry or fridge. Though most recipes advise against using a muffin pan, I decided to go for it anyway and finally give these a try, despite missing the proper tools…and you know what? They tasted delicious anyway!

I dislike purchasing unnecessary kitchen equipment, as I feel you can generally make due with something that you already have, and stockpiling specialty items can quickly get out of control. That said, these were delicious enough to be worthy of their own special pan. They are the perfect mix of warm biscuit, with a chewier eggy texture that reminds me a bit of a souffle. Give them a try and whip up a batch using your standard 12-well muffin tin and see what you think. Be sure to have plenty of room temp butter ready to go. These are a definite vehicle for it!

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Favorite Recipes, Food, Recipes

Perfect Golden Potato Latkes

Few things in this world bring me as much joy as the simple, crispy, golden potato latke. We are in the midst of Hanukkah and this simple recipe is one that is mired in Jewish tradition. I grew up on the shores of Long Island, NY, and although I am not of Jewish descent, I grew up celebrating its many traditions with friends, as Hanukkah is celebrated as vibrantly as Christmas there.

I can remember the lighting of the candle each night and the prayer that was recited. I just love traditions of any kind, and as with any culture, there is always a food involved when it comes to the holidays. I have yet to meet a Jewish friend whose family doesn’t have its very own latke recipe. The goal is always to get them “just like Bubby (Grandma) made them,” and you could get into a very heated debate about the proper way to make them.

I could eat these crispy little morsels by the dozen. If you have never had one, think of it as a small, pancake shaped hash brown patty. I have eaten plenty, but realized recently that I have never made one, so I felt this would be an appropriate time to try. I had bag of russet potatoes and a few onions left over from Thanksgiving, so all of the stars aligned.

I searched for the most traditional latke recipe and landed on one I found on The Kitchn website, as it stuck to the original methods the closest. made mine with what I had handy, so I used vegetable oil for frying and plain breadcrumbs as a thickening agent. I have to admit I winced a little. Traditionally, latkes call for crushed Matzoh (a dry unleavened cracker) to be used, as most Jewish households have some leftover from Passover, so it is handy.

I LOVE Matzoh, but didn’t have any available in my pantry, so this time around I used breadcrumbs. Tradition also calls for using schmaltz as the frying agent, which is rendered chicken fat. This is also a staple in traditional Jewish cooking. I did not have this handy, so I went with my trusty vegetable oil. Someday I will try the full traditional recipe, but these turned out to taste simply amazing.

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Favorite Recipes, Food, People, Recipes

Mom’s Molasses Ginger Cookies

My Christmas holiday doesn’t officially start until I take my first bite of my Mom’s legendary gingerbread cookies. These are made with sweet, thick molasses, which gives them the most scrumptious chew in the center, juxtaposed perfectly by crisp edges to nibble and the crunch of sweet granulated sugar on top. These remain the top requested cookie from my cousins and family members each year after decades of baking.

My Mom used to toil to assemble giant cookie baskets each Christmas for friends and family, and I remember every square inch of our countertops being covered in cookies of any and all varieties, from Rugelach to Peanut Butter Balls, but this gingerbread cookie was the one I always plucked from the pile as they cooled (when Mom wasn’t looking, of course). If you are a holiday cookie maker, give this one a try. The tang of ginger mixed with the warmth of cinnamon and cloves is irresistible. This recipe is worthy of a spot in the annual lineup.

Pro Tips

Be sure to leave time for chilling the dough when you set out to make these, as it is a crucial step in the process to achieve the correct consistency in your cookie.

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Favorite Recipes, People, Recipes, Uncategorized

Simple Scottish Shortbread Cookies

This recipe is a must for the holidays, and a perfect slightly sweet treat for the winter months. Traditional shortbread originally hails from Scotland, and this firm, biscuit-like cookie pairs perfectly with both hot tea and whiskey, making it the perfect accompaniment for any occasion. My Mom is an exceptional baker, and my family has gathered around a plate of her shortbread cookies and a hot pot of tea for as long as I can remember, as we discuss life’s mysteries, accomplishments, failures, loves, losses…you name it. Once you have tried this combo, it is hard to turn back. Nothing compares to gathering around the kitchen table and sharing a cookie and conversation. Make a batch of these and keep them on hand for just those occasions.

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Food, Recipes

Red-Wine Braised Short Ribs

When I first started this blog in Washington, D.C., way back in 2011, I came across a recipe in Bon Appetit magazine for Red-Wine Braised Short Ribs. It was the stuff of legends. I made the recipe and it was utterly phenomenal. I carefully clipped it from my copy of the magazine and placed it in a plastic sheath divider and tucked it away carefully to revisit for years to come. It is quite honestly one of the best recipes I believe I have ever made. I even surprised myself, it was so tasty, just by following the recipe to a tee.

Fast forward to present time, many moves later that have landed me in South Carolina, I either lost track of my recipe book where this recipe was located, or it was a victim of a feng shui attack somewhere along the way. I have since searched high and low in the hopes that someday I would open the right box or drawer and it would be there atop the pile, glowing with a magical, glimmering light.

Well, needless to say, this never happened. And, unfortunately, I deleted the content from my old blog to start it fresh, so I lost the original blog post where I reviewed and posted the recipe. After some time, I finally succumbed to the idea that it was a fruitless effort and threw in the towel on the idea of finding the recipe.

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Favorite Ingredients, Food

Variations of Vanilla

Since I have started to really take an interest in baking, I have unearthed a whole new world of ingredients that I never knew existed. This is how you know you really love something and that it is a passion. I truly get butterflies in my stomach learning about the intricacies of the art, tools and ingredients for baking.

Now, baking seems pretty straightforward, right? The standard recipes all call for flour sugar, eggs, vanilla and baking soda or powder, with dashes of additional accoutrement peppered in to define the flavor of the dessert at hand. Sounds like it should be pretty simple, but not so fast!

It is quite extraordinary, when you really break it down. Every time I peruse my cookbooks in search of my next project, almost every recipe calls for that same roster of ingredients. It reminds me of music in that sense. There are only so many notes available in the spectrum, yet artists continually come up with new melodies and hit songs using their creativity to unlock completely new sounds and genres. Baking is like that too, only the artists make their music in the kitchen, and their hit songs equate to their recipes.

So how is it, when the ingredients are consistently so similar, that bakers are able to conjure up such different textures and flavors?! I am finding, through practice, trial, and error, that so much of baking is just like any other art. It calls for sleight of hand, creative vision and willingness for experimentation to become great. 

So here is how it goes. You take your basic recipes, you learn them inside and out and you practice the techniques. You try, you fail. You try again, and you probably fail again. You do this over and over until you don’t fail anymore and you start to hit your groove. And then it finally hits you. Suddenly, it is as if you have unlocked a whole new level in the video game that you could never break past. It is when the lightbulb goes off and you start to get a knack for it.

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