Who are your favorite cooks and bakers to follow on Instagram? For the sake of brevity and self restraint, I’ve rounded up nine bakers whose work always makes me happy and inspired when I see them on Instagram…
The first snowfall has landed in D.C. and the rest of the country too judging by all of the Instagram Stories I just watched. Is there anything as magical as living in a snow globe?
I’m torn between baking up a storm and watching holiday movies all day. Alas, I used up all the eggs in a frittata this morning (a rare activity reserved for weekend mornings when I can pull myself out of bed early enough), and I’m not about to leave the house anytime soon for said eggs. Holiday movies it is!
I thought it might be helpful to wrap up the (semi-holiday, always delicious) recipes I recommend to friends in one neat list. I’ve tried and loved most of the recipes listed below with the exception of the chai cookies, Italian wedding cookies and the peanut butter blossoms. But I’m including them here a. because they look delicious and b. because I’ve made recipes from these bakers before, and everything has turned out wonderfully. I’m sure these will be no different!
The recipes are separated into categories based on how I tend to categorize treats this time of year: Sharing, Shipping, Last-minute baking, and Lazy weekend recipes.
Sharing – Treats which are too decadent to keep to yourself and deserve to be shared
Smitten Kitchen’s Chocolate peanut butter tart – Tarts always sound intimidating to me, but this one is a lot less scary if you think of it like a giant Reese’s cup.
Shipping – Snacks to send to friends in all corners of the world
Criteria for shippable cookies includes, but is not limited to: must hold up to being jostled around, nothing dipped lest it melt en route and nothing iced with soft buttercream.
Last-minute baking – Recipes to make when you remember you’ve got a cookie swap in less than 24 hours
Shortbread cookies – Skip the icing, and just bring shortbread! No one will know anything’s missing.
Lazy weekend recipes – For when you’ve got extra time on your hands
Is this round-up helpful? Is there a recipe you think I should add to the list? Let me know in the comments!
(These cupcakes are the peanut butter hi-hat cupcakes from Sally’s Baking Addiction.)
I will never forget that I was the first Grdina in my family to get a C on her report card.
I was finishing my math homework (for the class I might as well have been failing by my family’s standards) while waiting for a Jonathan Safran Foer reading at a Borders in downtown Chicago when my mom snapped, “The reason you got that C is because I wasn’t home when you were younger.”
My mom returned to teaching full-time a few years after I was born. Her going back to school meant many things for our family. But for me, it meant more time with my dad helping him around the house and running errands around town just he and I.
I remember our days full of activities: running errands around town but always making time for the candy store, handing my dad paint brushes while he was on the ladder, and making chocolate chip cookies together while anxiously waiting for my sisters to return from school and rejoin our fun.
While my mom might chock up my first C to her not being home to encourage studying, what I hope she has now come to realize – after a very full, very fun sixty years on earth – is that by returning to work and later pursuing her Master’s all while raising the three of us, my mom modeled for all of us exactly the kind of woman we hope we will become.
It is because of her that my sisters and I stumbled through dance classes, played volleyball and soccer, tried out for nearly every school play, participated in Speech and Debate, wrote for the college paper, studied abroad and more. She is the one to thank (or blame? 😉 ) for our stubborn personalities and thinking we can conquer anything, obstacles and the patriarchy be damned!
She and my dad both encouraged us to try everything and to never stop learning. To always carry a book on your person and to be kind to everyone because you never know what someone else is going through.
By going after her own dreams both big and small, my mom showed us how to do everything with big love – to embrace the lows for we will overcome them stronger in the end and to cherish the highs for you never know how long they will last.
Anyone who has spent just five minutes with her has seen this for themselves and can attest to how fun she is. I was scolded at a Jonathan Safran Foer lecture, for heaven’s sake!
At the last wedding we attended, the table mates we hardly knew at the evening’s beginning told me as they left that she made the whole party more fun! And they said this despite the fact we toasted our deceased aunt not once but three times, which is most definitely a blog post for another time.
Many years before D.C. and I.U. and Munster High School but always sitting at our big round kitchen table, I remember answering a worksheet which asked many things, one of which was, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
When I asked my mom (see, I remember you helping me with homework!) she replied, “A strong, independent woman who contributes to society.”
I panicked after seeing there wasn’t nearly enough room for such a long-winded answer (which comes as no surprise to anyone who has seen firsthand how chatty our family is). I suspected everyone else would write something tangible like “teacher” or “artist.” And yet I squeezed “a strong, independent woman who contributes to society” in between the lines and placed my worksheet in my folder for the next day.
To the most fearless and fun woman I know whose mottos include, “Glitterize it” and “What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine,” you are, without a doubt, peanut butter hi-hat cupcakes: chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting dipped in chocolate. Chocolate cupcakes are the great equalizer. They’re fitting for every event and always the life of the party.
And if the whipped peanut butter frosting wasn’t enough, these cupcakes have a hard chocolate shell on top. Which sums up my mom’s third life motto: “More is more.”
My only regret is that I didn’t order edible glitter. Alas, there’s always your sixty-first.
I have no idea what happened to that worksheet or how my classmates responded, but the lesson has stuck with me: I can go after anything I want no matter where it will take me.
By simply being, my mother encourages me everyday to cultivate my relationship with myself, to never underestimate the healing power of a good manicure, and that I can do more than I believe is possible.
This post is late by logistical birthday standards, but its publishing the last day of birthday month is a fitting end to an amazing start to her sixtieth year! Birthdays always last the full month, anyways. For these lessons and a million more, we will never come close to repaying you, Mom. You’re the best in the world. Happy belated birthday!
(These cupcakes are the peanut butter hi-hat cupcakes from Sally’s Baking Addiction.)
The best part about living in a city with seasons is the in-between window when summer isn’t quite over and fall is just rolling in. I’m completely wooed by cooler evenings, and all of my griping between June and August about the hot weather is a thing of the past.
Unfortunately it takes me until Labor Day to realize I will actually miss everything I love about summer: reading by the pool, playing Scrabble in the park and staking out a patio whenever possible. A few days relaxing in DC this past weekend was exactly what I needed to soak up all the wonderful summer activities one last time and prepare for a new season just around the corner.
To welcome cool nights and sweatered days ahead of us, these homemade twix are the perfect (thought probably short-lived) companion. They are the stuff dreams are made of, the exact dessert you’ll want on the nights when the windows are open and the A/C is off. While they will test your patience as you wait for everything to cool, the end is so so worth it.
Homemade twix: Serves about 16; Time: 90 minutes
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1 1/4 cups white flour
- 2/3 cup cubed butter
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- Set out the butter and sweetened condensed milk (if you kept leftovers in your fridge like I did). This recipe comes together better when everything is room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a 9×9 baking pan with a strip of parchment paper. This will make it easier to remove the shortbread and caramel from the pan. The parchment paper functions as handles.
- In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar and 1 1/4 cup of flour.
- Add 2/3 cup cubed butter with your hands until the butter is incorporated. The mixture will be crumbly and a little sticky.
- Press the mixture into the bottom of the 9×9″ pan, and bake for 20 minutes – until the edges start to turn a golden brown.
- Remove from oven and let it cool completely. To cool the layers quicker, I pop mine in the freezer until cool to the touch.
- In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine the 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tbsp. corn syrup for shine, and 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until everything is incorporated (you don’t want the mixture to burn, so keep stirring). Once boiling, stir for 5 more minutes, then remove from heat and stir for an additional 2-3 minutes.
- Pour the caramel mixture over the shortbread crust while still in the pan. This keeps the caramel on the top of the cookie.
- While that is cooling, melt the cup of chocolate chips with 1tbsp coconut oil in the microwave. Stir every 30 seconds for about 2 minutes. Don’t add more chocolate chips once you start melting everything. It will not melt evenly and your chocolate will be lumpy like mine is in the pictures.
- Once the caramel has hardened, remove the cookies and caramel from the pan and cut into strips. I cut 1-in cookies and then cut the whole square down the middle leaving me with about 16 twix.
- Pour chocolate on top and let it cool. Enjoy!
This was (truly!) the easiest recipe I have ever made in all twenty-four years of my existence.
D.C. was hit with more than two feet of snow in some pockets of the city this weekend, and baking was one of the only things keeping me sane. Unfortunately, my past self deemed a small loot of potatoes more important to lug home instead of ingredients for a more complicated bake. These muffins took just 10 minutes to whip up – a mere fraction of the duration of Snowzilla. I would’ve killed someone this time yesterday as the Cabin Fever set in if it meant having access to a kitchen like the ones in Great British Bake-Off – all the ingredients a girl could need!
Alas, all we’ve got are items for muffins*. At least Google pulled through and Food.com didn’t disappoint (although I was skeptical of the recipe’s legitimacy ’til the moment I bit into the first muffin). These guys are keepers: a fruit serving and a sprinkle of chocolate! What’s not to love?
- 3large bananas
- 1⁄2cup white sugar
- 1⁄3cup melted butter
- 1teaspoon baking soda
- 1teaspoon baking powder
- 1 1⁄2cups all-purpose flour
- 1⁄2teaspoon salt
- nuts (optional)
- chocolate chips (optional. if you don’t like fun.)
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Mash bananas.
- Add sugar and the slightly beaten egg.
- Stir in melted butter.
- Stir in flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
- Spoon into medium size muffin pan lined with paper cups.
- Bake 20-25 minutes until a knife comes out clean.
*Consider this my formal pledge to document more photos of the ~*baking process*~ next time. Sometimes you’re trying to beat the clock ’til Meet the Press comes on, and before you know it, everything’s already waiting nicely** in paper muffin cups for baking. Smh. Next time!
**Seriously – they’re that easy! Done before you know it!