Hassleback Apple Crisp

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I don’t keep a diary, but I do have a small notebook that I write my favorite quotes and song lyrics in. This little book has been in my possession since I was 15 or 16, and I occasionally like to look back at the lyrics that meant the most to me in years past. I recently came across one particular verse that I scribbled in my little notebook the summer that I lived in Pensacola, Florida. I was 1,000 miles away from everyone I loved, and Ani Difranco’s words really resonated with me. “Strangers are exciting, their mystery never ends, but there is nothing like seeing your own history in the faces of your friends.” This past weekend, I helped celebrate the wedding of my sweet friend, Julie, and the extra time I got to spend with some of my oldest girlfriends made me realize how truly blessed I am. Not everyone can say that the majority of their closest friends have been a part of their lives for 10, 15, or even 26 years, but thankfully I can. There is something remarkable about friendships that are strong enough to weather the storms of distance, time, and the struggle of simply “growing up.” A few of these strong, incredible women have been by my side for my highest highs and lowest lows. In particular, my three best friends Annie, LT and Lo all stood next to me on my own wedding day to celebrate one of the happiest days of my life thus far. And all three of them have stood by my side during some of the worst times in life. I can still remember the day my Grandpa passed away and the look of love and compassion in Lo’s eyes when I gave her the news. She took one look at my tear stained face, ran towards me, and held me as I cried. And in high school, LT rescued me from a mortifying moment when I forgot all of the words to a solo I was singing in front of 200 people. Instead of joining our choir for the final song in the concert, LT walked me off stage, drove me home, and sat on my parent’s couch and cheered me up until my embarrassing moment was nearly forgotten. And when my first boyfriend broke up with me, Annie came home with me after school every day to eat ice cream and discuss why we were “absolutely done with men.” So although it is exciting to meet new people and form new friendships, there is nothing quite like having friends who have been by your side every step of the way. Even though months often pass between our visits, having these wonderful women by my side always makes me feel a bit more whole. I’m sad to see this weekend of togetherness come to a close, but theses three are always in my heart.

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And when the “Sunday blues” hit, I like to turn to the kitchen for a little baking. This recipe is a simplified and speedy apple crisp. Top with some vanilla ice cream, and your Sunday blues will diminish in no time.

Ingredients: Serves 2

  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and cut in half vertically
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted and divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 2 tablespoons old fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. Starting at the outermost corner of the apple, cut most (but not all) the way through the apple in 1/8 inch intervals. Place apple halves cut side down in a 8inch baking dish, coated with cooking spray.
  3. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Brush mixture evenly over apple halves
  4. Cover pan with foil and bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Remove foil, bake at 400 for 10 minutes, or until apples are tender. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 10 minutes
  5. Combine remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, oats, flour and salt.
  6. Carefully fan open apple halves, and spoon oat picture evenly over apples. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes. Turn broiler on high and broil for additional 2 minutes
  7. Remove from the oven and serve topped with vanilla ice cream

Oreo Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

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When I was in high school, John Mayer came out with a song called Stop the Train. It wasn’t a hit single, and I doubt it ever played on the radio, but it is still a song that I relate to even now. It touches upon the fear of growing older and drifting further and further into the unknown of the future. I’ve had quite a few moments that I quietly dubbed “stop this train” moments. Times in life that are so wonderfully perfect that you wish you could hold onto them…but in the back of your mind, you know they can’t last. And that might be a bit sad, but the fleeting property of those moments is what makes them so sweet. The first time I ever experienced a “stop this train” moment was only a few months after I had first heard that song. It was the summer before college. The summer I had spent every waking moment with three of my best friends. I remember sitting in the car with the three of them, days before we were to head our separate ways in college, and just wishing I could hit the “pause” button and stay in that period of my life forever. Young, naive, and surrounded by those three kindred spirits. But time went on, and life happened. Two of those wonderful friends now live across the country and we only get to see each other a few perfect times a year. And sadly, I lost touch with the third friend years ago. But I like to think that our friendship, with all four of us together, lives on in that perfect memory. And as life continues to move forward, I’ve experienced more and more “stop this train” moments. Late night conversations while eating Ore Ida french fries with my best friends from college. The last Christmas my family had with my Grandpa. Countless moments from our wedding day, when Eric and I were surrounded by every person that we love. Moments like that don’t happen often. And as much as we long to hang on to them as long as we can, they pass quickly. But that’s ok. Because if every moment in life was a “stop this train” moment, those special memories wouldn’t be as special, perfectly preserved in the backs of our minds.

This post doesn’t perfectly tie in with one of my recent recipes. It’s just a collection of thoughts that came to me while baking cookies. Oreo Peanut Butter Chip Cookies to be exact. My coworkers had pointed out that it had been quite a while since I brought baked goods into the office, so I knew I couldn’t come into work on Monday empty handed. This recipe uses a classic chocolate chip cookie base, but has an extra sweetness with the addition of crushed Oreos and peanut butter chips. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Makes 24 cookies

  • 1  1/4 cup  packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup  granulated sugar
  • 1/2  cup  butter, softened
  • 2  large egg whites
  • 1  teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4  cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 6-8 crushed Oreo cookies
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter chips

Preparation:

  1. Cream butter & sugars together
  2. Add egg whites (one at a time) & vanilla extract
  3. In separate bowl, combine flour and baking soda
  4. Gradually combine wet & dry ingredients
  5. Add in crushed Oreos and peanut butter chips
  6. Place tablespoon sized portions of the dough on a greased cookie sheet.  (Make sure the dough is evenly spaced, as the cookies do spread a bit while baking)
  7. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes

 

 

Blueberry Bread

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One of my high school friends recently pointed out to me that it has been 10 years since we entered our first year of high school. It just seemed so odd to me that 10 years have already passed since we were those gawky 15 year olds stumbling our way through 9th grade. And this got me thinking…if 15 year old me could see where I am now, would she be happy with where I ended up? My immediate answer was yes. I have a very happy, full life, so of course the 15 year old version of myself would be happy to see that. But I also think she would be pretty surprised and perhaps a bit confused when learning about the career I chose. When I was fifteen I flip flopped back and forth about “what I wanted to be when I grew up.” Some days I wanted to be a chef and other days I wanted to go into musical theatre. But no matter how many times my “dream job” changed it always involved either food or music. If you’ve read this blog for a while, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that food always had a part in my future ambitions. But perhaps the music part is a bit of a surprise. Yet once upon a time, music was a huge part of my life. I started singing when I was 5 years old, and couldn’t really get enough of it.

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My high school days were spent in choir practice and voice lessons and there weren’t many things I loved more than singing in front of a big crowd. A pretty odd hobby for someone as shy as I always was, but somehow it just worked. Eventually I retired from my short lived singing career, but my love of music never went away. So I’m sure the fifteen year old me would be surprised that I ended up not as a singer or a chef…but a hotel sales manager. But even though I always scoffed at the idea of working in a hotel and even worse, working in sales, I truly love where I ended up. Because as strange as it may sound, my job actually allows me to be surrounded by both food and theatre. I get to spend half of my time planning catered events and creating menus for my clients. And because my hotel is located in the heart of Detroit’s theatre district, the other half of my time is spent working with the company managers of all of the Broadway musicals and plays that come into town. I even get to attend many of the new shows that visit the city. So I’m hoping fifteen year old Colleen wouldn’t be too disappointed with her 25 year old counterpart.

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And even though the “food” part of my job doesn’t exactly involve cooking, I think I make up for that on the weekends. Last weekend I whipped up this sweet blueberry bread, with a few simple ingredients I already had in my kitchen. The bread is cake-like and would be delicious drizzled with a simple lemon glaze. I kept mine simple, but feel free to add a glaze or frosting to sweeten things up a bit.

Ingredients: Makes 1 loaf, Adapted slightly from AllRecipes

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed and drained

Preparation:

  1. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar together until smooth
  2. Beat in milk and oil until well incorporated
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, salt and baking powder together
  4. Gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture until well combined
  5. Fold in blueberries
  6. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 for 50-65 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the loaf

Soft Gingersnap Cookies


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Christmas is officially one week away and my mind is abuzz with all the wonderful things that the holiday brings. Back when I was little, the week before Christmas brought thoughts of Santa Claus and the gifts I might find under our tree Christmas morning. My cousins, brother and I would go back and forth all week discussing the gifts we hoped Santa would bring us on December 25th. And finally, after weeks of anticipation, Christmas morning would arrive and my brother, Sean and I would rush down the stairs consumed with excitement. Nowadays, the excitement revolving around Christmas has nothing to do with gifts. Night after night of family parties and extended time with the people I love is what makes me look forward to this time of year so much. Just like every year before, the next few days will be filled with laughter, family, and of course, food.

 

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As I mentioned before, the Christmas season often means a few days of baking dozens of cookies to give to family and friends. And each year I like to try a few new flavors and varieties. Sometimes I’m drawn to more unique flavor combinations or crazy ingredients. But this year, I decided to try a few classic Christmas cookie flavors. And nothing is more classic than a soft gingersnap cookie subtly spiced and sprinkled with granulated sugar. I found this recipe over at Two Peas and their Pod and was delighted with the result. The recipe yields three dozen soft gingersnap cookies, perfect for the most wonderful time of the year.

Ingredients: Makes 3 dozen, from Two Peas and Their Pod

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • White sugar-to roll the cookie dough in

Preparation:

1. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices in a medium bowl.
2. In a large bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
3. Add in the egg and vanilla extra. Mix until well combined.
4. Add in the molasses. Mix until the molasses is combined with the other ingredients.
5. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture.
6. Form the dough into Tablespoon sized balls. Roll the dough in white sugar.
7. Place each dough ball on a greased cookie sheet and flatten slightly
9. Bake for 8 minutes at 375
11. Enjoy!

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Nothing quite stirs up the nostalgia of childhood summers like that first chilly bite into a sweet, ice cream cookie sandwich. I can remember running down the street after the ice cream truck to claim the delicious prize of creamy … Continue reading