Friday Faves: Halloween Edition

IMG_3980{my two favorite things}

Happy Halloween Eve! What are your plans for tomorrow? Any fun traditions? I’m looking forward to spending the evening with my niece and nephew, especially since it’s baby Harper’s first Halloween. She’s going as a ladybug (contrary to the photo above, where she and Cooper are just props for my Cat in the Hat costume), and Coop is going to be a little pumpkin. One costume is homemade and has been in the works for months, and one was scavenged from the last few remaining options in his size at Pottery Barn Kids a week ago (anyone who knows my sister or my sister-in-law can guess whose is whose), but they are both going to be adorable. I can’t wait until they’re old enough to trick-or-treat, but for the time being it will be nice to stay warm and dry inside handing out candy, as the forecast for tomorrow night looks pretty bad. Wishing everyone a lovely Halloween weekend, full of lots of treats and hopefully waterproof costumes! Some links and pics (a little baby-heavy, as that’s all I’ve been doing the past few days!):

  • Cooper is obsessed with spiders lately (and cookies too, incidentally) – I may need to make these for him.
  • Homemade Almond Joys – one of the many things on my to-do list for this Halloween that just didn’t happen (along with carving a pumpkin!) – but I’m thinking if I write it down here maybe I’ll hold myself to it for next year. I did make her homemade Twix a few years ago and they were to die for.
  • How cute are these Mummy Cupcakes?
  • I’m going to make this tomorrow night.
  • Lena Dunham’s costumes through the years – so funny!!

IMG_3997{favorite halloween candy}

IMG_3868{little skeleton buns in their honest diapers}

IMG_3853{cookie treats for friends and neighbors}

IMG_3988{coordinating cuddles (compare with last year – sob!)}

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze

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Smitten Kitchen first posted this recipe three Octobers ago, way back in 2012, a few days before I was planning to host a baby shower brunch for my friend Amanda.  I had the menu all planned out, but naturally I saw the blog post and decided I could definitely do homemade cinnamon rolls for a crowd on top of everything else.  I was also planning on homemade quiches, however, and at the eleventh hour decided I couldn’t do both – so I opted for pumpkin muffins, which I had made before and knew would be easier. On the one hand, thank goodness I came to my senses and didn’t attempt the cinnamon rolls, as I was pretty frazzled the morning of the shower (I have a vivid memory of calling a girlfriend at 8 am and asking her to pick up three dozen cupcakes, as I had run out of time to make them). But on the other, it’s really a shame I didn’t, as what I learned last week when I finally made them (three years later!) is that – as it turns out – they’re totally doable. And of course, as delicious as they sound.

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So please believe me when I tell you that you, too, can make homemade cinnamon rolls. You can make them from scratch, even. My grandmother is the only person I’ve ever known to make “homemade” cinnamon rolls, and even she uses frozen bread dough – so of course I assumed they must be really difficult. As it turns out, however, that’s not the case.  I’ve never worked with yeast before, and I was surprised at just how easy it is. It’s already packaged out for you in the baking aisle – you simply let it sit in some warm milk for five minutes and add it to your dough (just make sure you let the dough rise in a warm room ~ I had to turn the oven on in the kitchen, and in a moment of doubt even leave the oven door open for awhile/the full hour – but my dough rose!!).

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You have to let the dough rise twice, for an hour the first time and 45 minutes the second, but that’s still not nearly as long as I thought it would take (SK gives you the option of preparing the rolls the night before baking them, in which case you only have to let the dough rise once, and then the second “rise” happens overnight in the fridge). And you get to use the dough hook attachment to your mixer – I’ve had my mixer for over ten years and this is literally the first time I’ve used it (I was proud of myself more for even knowing where to find it than for the fact that I was actually making dough!). It’s also worth mentioning that the whole process makes your kitchen smell AH-mazing. Please make these tomorrow night, pop them in the fridge for the second rise, and then bake them Saturday morning for the best pumpkin treat you could give yourself. Happy Halloween!

One Year Ago: Barefoot Contessa’s Mac and Cheese and Beecher’s Mac and Cheese
Two Years Ago: My Favorite Pumpkin Muffins

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls, from Smitten Kitchen 

Yield: 16-18 rolls

For the Dough
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 whole milk, warmed (but not over 116 degrees F)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from 1 0.25 ounce or 7 gram packet)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling the dough
1/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cup pumpkin purée, homemade or canned
1 large egg
Oil, for coating bowl

For the Filling
3/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon

For the Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons milk or buttermilk
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Few drops vanilla extract (optional)

To Make Dough: Melt butter (brown it if you wish) and let it cool. Combine warm milk and yeast in a small bowl and set aside. After 5-7 minutes it should be a little foamy – if not, you may have some bad yeast and should start again with a new packet. Combine flour, sugars, salt, and spices in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add 1/4 of your melted butter (reserve the rest for assembly) and stir to combine, then add milk/yeast mixture, pumpkin, and egg. Once the dough starts to come together, switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook and run it on low for five minutes.  Scrape your dough into a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set the bowl in a warm, draft free area of your kitchen and let it rise for an hour. (Trick my aunt taught me: if your dough doesn’t seem to be rising enough, turn your oven on to warm up your kitchen). While the dough rises, prepare your baking dishes: line the bottoms of two 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans (or square or rectangular baking dishes) with parchment and then butter the sides of the pan and the parchment.

To Make Filling: Stir together the sugars, cinnamon, and salt.

To Make Glaze: Beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Slowly drizzle in the milk until you reach your desired consistency – thick enough to ice (less milk) or thin enough to drizzle (more milk).

To Assemble Rolls: Scoop your dough onto a very well-floured surface, sprinkle some extra flour on top, and roll it out into a 16″ x 11″ rectangle. Brush the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter over the dough and sprinkle the filling evenly over the butter. Starting on a longer side, roll the dough as tightly as possible into a spiral. Using a sharp, serrated knife, saw the log with a back and forth motion as gently as possible (almost no pressure whatsoever) into 1″ rounds. Divide buns between the two prepared pans. Sprinkle any filling that has fallen out on top. Cover each pan with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until puffed and golden, top with glaze, and dig in!

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Friday Faves

IMG_3473{pumpkin snickerdoodles}

What are you up to this weekend? I have a long and ambitious list that includes a haircut, a trip to the pumpkin patch, and three dozen pumpkin sugar cookies that need decorating. [I have a new little cousin/nephew as of 2:00 this afternoon, just in time to get his name on his cookie! And one of B&B’s most loyal readers also welcomed a baby boy today – happy birthday Gavin and Cooper!] Some fun links and pics for your evening (I was supposed to post this 12 hours ago and somehow forgot ~ I’m blaming an early morning spin class that really threw off my routine):

IMG_3474{my new ‘godmotherglassybaby from my sweet godson}

photo-125{soup weather, finally}

IMG_3475{my new favorite sunscreen, thanks to my friend (and supergoop guru!) Steph}

IMG_3497{topping bar at Portage Bay Cafe, yum}

Cougar Gold Cheese Dip

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The Davenport is a lovely historical hotel in downtown Spokane, Washington, where I went to law school. It’s home to a bar called the Peacock Room, which is pretty swanky for Spokane, and back in my law school days I spent quite a bit of time there. How my friends and I had the time or money, I’m not sure, but we would go on Fridays for happy hour and order pricey cocktails, and the waitress would bring delicious little bowls of salted cashews out for the table. At the time, Cougar Gold Cheese Dip wasn’t on the menu, and thank goodness for that or we would have been frequenting the Peacock Room more often than we already were, spending that much more money and gaining that much more weight (or at least spending that much more time at the gym instead of at the law library). The dip debuted on the menu sometime after I finished law school, and I heard about it many times over the years, whenever anyone would go to Spokane and make the obligatory trip to the Peacock Room. I stayed at the Davenport a couple years ago when I was back in Spokane for my younger cousin’s college graduation, and finally had the opportunity to try it for myself. I’ve been dreaming about it ever since.

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Cougar Gold is a delicious sharp white cheddar cheese that’s made at the Washington State University Creamery in Pullman, Washington. As a Husky, I’m not supposed to be that into the Cougs, but I have to admit they make some pretty delicious cheese. When I was in college, the only place you could buy Cougar Gold was at the WSU bookstore, and any trip to Pullman included a special trip to the bookstore just to stock up on a few cans. Nowadays you can get it at the Metropolitan Market in Seattle, and at New Seasons in Portland. You can also order it online, and even with shipping it’s a lot cheaper than at Met Market and New Seasons. You don’t need the whole can, however – you only need four ounces for this recipe, and you can buy four ounce wedges at the grocery stores – it’s a lot more economical and you’ll eat a lot less cheese.  I love the can, though, so I splurged. Leftover cheese can be used for Mac and Cheese (there’s a Cougar Gold Mac and Cheese recipe, or you can use it in place of Beecher’s for the World’s Best recipe – legend has it Beecher’s was modeled after Cougar Gold), crumbled next to crackers for the easiest and most delicious cheese plate ever, or for any number of cheesy recipes.  Make this dip first, though – it literally takes five minutes and your friends/family/fellow tailgaters will thank you.

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One Year Ago: Chicken Lasagna Cacciatore
Two Years Ago: Crunchy Baked Pasta with Sausage (or Squash)

Hot Cougar Gold Cheese Dip, from The Davenport Hotel

Serves a crowd 

1 teaspoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
Handful of flat-leaf parsley, washed, dried, and chopped
12 ounces cream cheese, cut into small cubes
8 ounces gruyère cheese, grated
4 ounces Cougar Gold cheese, grated
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
Baguette, apples, and carrots, and/or whatever else you like to eat with cheese, for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Heat olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add shallot and garlic mixture and season with cayenne pepper and salt. Mix until well combined. Pour into four ovenproof ramekins or a 1 3/4 quart baking dish. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbling (8-10 minutes for ramekins, 12-15 minutes for larger dish). Finish under the broiler for a few seconds until top is golden brown and caramelized. Top with additional parsley and cayenne pepper and serve with sliced baguette, apples, and carrots.

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Friday Faves: Key West Edition

IMG_3178{happy hour view}

A few months ago, when my dad told me he had a conference in Key West in October, I mentioned I had always wanted to go there. A week or so later, he surprised me with a plane ticket. I was so excited, because when I said I had always wanted to go to the Keys, what I meant was I had always wanted to go to the Keys with my dad, a closet Parrothead who I think may have been an islander in a past life. We had a great time – Key West has a lot of history for such a tiny island, and the spring break atmosphere is pretty fun (so long as you have a quiet and relaxing hotel to return to). I spent the mornings reading in a hammock on the beach, and then the afternoons riding around the island on my rented beach cruiser. We had some amazing meals and took a couple fun sailing trips in the evenings after the conference would let out. And of course, I drank a lot of mojitos and rum runners (yum!) and ate a lot of key lime pie. As a west coaster, I don’t know if I’ll ever be back, since Hawaii is so much easier to get to, but if you ever have a chance to visit the Keys I would wholeheartedly recommend it.  I’ve posted more pics from the trip, and some thematic links to go along with them, below. Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend!

IMG_3147{not easy to get there}

IMG_3011{our hotel}

IMG_3261{my happy place}

IMG_3144{biking + shopping}

IMG_3241{kind of fun being a cheesy tourist}

IMG_3251{there’s no uber in key west… but there are pink taxis}

IMG_3149{café con leche}

IMG_3121{sunset sailing}

IMG_3227{and of course, a piece of key lime pie each day!}

Warm Pear-Ginger Upside-Down Cake

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If you read this blog even semi-regularly, you might start to worry that I only own two cookbooks. While in truth I have about half a bookshelf’s worth, it would be a fair assumption since I sometimes don’t do a very good job of branching out. Last week, in search of an easy fall dessert, I remembered a pear upside down cake I had made a couple years back, when I was trying to use up some pears from a friend’s orchard and really into my cast iron skillet cookbook. I dug up the recipe, happily realized I already had almost all of the ingredients on hand (if you keep the Trader Joe’s ginger chews on hand like I used to, you might even find you don’t have to go to the store at all!), and whipped this up in under an hour. In a season flooded with apple and pumpkin desserts, often rich and heavy or overly sugary, I think this is a great addition to anyone’s fall recipe repertoire. The cake has a barely-sweetened cornmeal crumb, the pears are deliciously buttery, and the spicy ginger adds a little kick. And of course, what’s prettier than an upside-down cake in a cast iron skillet?

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I probably say this too often, in my attempt to encourage everyone to actually make these recipes rather than just read about them, but this really is so easy to throw together. The only caveat is, I do think you need a cast iron skillet. While you could definitely make something similar in a regular cake pan (or ideally an 8×8 brownie pan), the cast iron is ideal here, for the way it caramelizes the fruit and of course for it’s stovetop-to-oven multi-tasking ability. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, consider buying one – the Lodge brand is relatively inexpensive and I use mine all the time. While I’ve done meat and fish in it a few times, I use it primarily for cheese dips and giant chocolate chip cookies – so if that doesn’t sell you I don’t know what will.  But make this first, because I know you have someone in your life giving you a basket of pears from their orchard that you need to use. And if you don’t, it’s a great excuse to buy a couple pounds at the farmer’s market this weekend! You could also use apples if you went on an overly-ambitious apple picking trip recently… but I do recommend trying it with pears first, because just like with cookbooks, sometimes you’ve got to mix it up a little bit!

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One Year Ago: Brown Butter and Bourbon Apple Crisp
Two Years Ago: Black Bean and Pumpkin Soup

Warm Pear-Ginger Upside-Down Cake, from The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook by Sharon Kramis & Julie Kramis Hearne

Serves 8-10

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
3/4 cup sugar, divided
2 pounds firm but ripe Bartlett or Anjou pears (about 4 pears), peeled, cored, and cut into eighths
2 tablespoons minced candied ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup medium-ground yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup boiling water
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
Fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for topping, optional

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add 1/4 cup of the sugar, stir just enough to combine, and cook without disturbing until the sugar dissolves and starts to turn golden brown/caramelize, about 5 minutes. Beginning with the outside edge and working your way towards the center in a circular pattern, arrange the pear slices on top of the caramelized sugar. Sprinkle the ginger and nutmeg over the top. Cook until the pears are soft and the caramel starts to thicken, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Place the cornmeal in a large bowl, add the boiling water, and stir to blend.  Add the remaining 6 tablespoons butter and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar to the cornmeal mixture and mix until well blended.  (This can be done by hand). Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Beat in the flour mixture, a little at a time, alternating it with the milk, making sure not to over mix. Pour the batter on top of the pears in the skillet.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the top starts to brown and the center of the cake feels firm and springs back when pressed, 18-20 minutes. Let the cake cook for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen it, and place an inverted plate on top of the skillet. Protecting both hands with oven mitts, flip the cake onto the plate. Replace any fruit that may have stuck to the skillet.  Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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Friday Faves

IMG_2901{fall foliage + fog}

Happy Friday! What are you up to this weekend? I’m off to Key West…looking forward to eating lots of Key Lime Pie, listening exclusively to Jimmy Buffet and Kenny Chesney, and doing everything the NYT’s “36 Hours” article tells me to do. We’ll have more than 36 hours though (5 days!), so if you have any recommendations I would love to hear them! Wishing everyone a lovely fall weekend. Some fun photos and articles for your Friday:

  • Facial mists – I’ve never really tried them, but this article makes me want to start!
  • I’ve been craving this pasta all week.
  • Loved this week’s Modern Love (Last week’s Modern Love? It’s published online on Thursdays but printed in the Sunday NYT, so depending upon how you read it…)
  • I’m really working on perfecting my roast chicken this fall (have you ever made “Engagement Chicken”? My friend Kristy did one time…..but it didn’t work.)
  • I can’t wait to go visit Eagle the Penguin!

IMG_2660{Queso Fundido for MNF – Go Hawks!}

IMG_2937{I made these photo books for Cooper per a recommendation from Cup of Jo – I did one with his monthly photos and one with pictures of his favorite people. He’s currently not that into them but I’m sure he will be at some point….right? I think it’s a cute gift idea, regardless!}

IMG_2938{Such a thoughtful “just because” gift from my dear friend Jessie ~ I’ve been drinking my detox tea out of it all week! In related news, did anyone catch that game last night? Go Dawgs!}

IMG_2932{My two favorite uncooperative photo subjects in the Petit Bateau outfits I got them about a year ago – now that Coop finally fits into his, Harper has almost outgrown hers. Damn those French sizes! And yes, this took two takes, thus the two different bows}