January 2017 archive

chocolate espresso sables with raspberry mascarpone filling

What the world needs now is love sweet love. As we get closer to Valentine’s Day I like to find ways to share love with people all around me. Passing around a few chocolate espresso sables with raspberry mascarpone filling is a good way to start.

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling | www.passthecookies.com

Chocolate and Valentine’s Day are basically synonymous with each other, so while I grew up on royal icing frosted sugar cookie hearts, I knew we needed a chocolate alternative. And what better to pair with chocolate than espresso?! Chocolate and coffee is one of my favorite flavor combinations. In every form, the pair complements and brings out the best in each other.

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling | www.passthecookies.com

Can I share a secret? I typically don’t like chocolate and raspberry together, or really chocolate with any fruits. Chocolate covered strawberries don’t entice me and I am less likely to choose a chocolate torte from the menu if raspberry sauce is included on top. So why am I making chocolate cookies with raspberry mascarpone filling? Because they break the mold.

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling | www.passthecookies.com

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling | www.passthecookies.com

In smaller quantities, coffee is unnoticeable in chocolate baked goods – it merely adds depth and brings out the chocolate flavor. That is why you will almost always see coffee listed as an ingredient in brownies and chocolate cakes here on the blog. But here we use a little more – we want the espresso to shine next to the chocolate! By using dark cocoa powder, these cookies have an even deeper and more intense chocolate flavor. Bake them a little softer and they are like little brownies that melt in your mouth; bake them stiffer and they have the perfect crispness that you expect from shortbread or a typical sable cookie.

There is just enough raspberry jam to sweeten the mascarpone and make it slightly fruity, while still letting the tangy-ness of the mascarpone shine through. The coffee in the cookies adds to the equation as well and the multifaceted dessert comes out not too fruity, not too sweet, but very flavorful and absolutely delicious.

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling | www.passthecookies.com

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling | www.passthecookies.com

Bake these up for your valentine, for your co-workers, for your family and friends, and share the love, sweet love.

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling

Chocolate Espresso Sables
1 cup flour
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup dark cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
2-3 tablespoons instant espresso powder*
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

Raspberry Mascarpone Filling
½ cup (1-8oz container) mascarpone
2 tablespoons raspberry jam

*If you aren’t a fan of coffee or the coffee and chocolate combination, just reduce the amount of espresso powder but don’t eliminate it. By keeping a little coffee, you will get a richer chocolate flavor without the added coffee taste.

To make the chocolate espresso sables
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, sea salt and instant espresso powder (all ingredients except for the butter). Add the softened butter to the dry ingredients and use your hands to work the ingredients together until the butter is fully incorporated.

Flour a flat work surface (cutting board, counter, etc) and roll the dough out onto the surface until it is about ¼-inch thick. Dip your cookie cutters in excess flour around the edges of the work surface and cut your shapes out of the dough. Transfer the cookie dough shapes to the prepared baking sheets, placing them a few inches apart from each other. Bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating halfway through. The baking time may increase or decrease depending on the size of your cookie cutters. I noticed that the smaller shapes only took about 8 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking trays for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.

To make the raspberry mascarpone filling
In a small bowl, stir together the mascarpone and the raspberry jam until the mixture is fully combined and evenly pink throughout.

Match up the chocolate espresso sables by size. Use a knife, a spoon, or a pastry bag to place the raspberry mascarpone filling on a cooled cookie and place a matching size cookie on top. Gently press the two sides into the filling so they will stay together. As shown in the photos, you can also use the raspberry mascarpone filling as frosting on open-faced cookies or as a way to stack different sized cookies together and create a layered look.

Only fill the cookies you are going to eat or serve immediately. Uneaten cookies will get softer if you store them pre-filled, but will keep their structure if you store them not-yet-filled. Store the rest of the filling in a covered bowl or airtight container in the fridge to use when you eat or serve the rest.

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling | www.passthecookies.com

link love

Sometimes January seems like a nice fresh start, and sometimes it just seems like the Monday of months. We got a little of both and I’m ready for February.

link love 1.27.2017via

So, on this last Friday of January, I hope you can spend some time sitting and enjoying a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate and spinning through some link love. Sitting and enjoying are key; walking and scrolling is not what we are going for today. Happy Friday. I hope yours is wonderful!

I never go to the movies, or even watch movies at home. Sometimes I feel like going to the movies is a waste of time that I could be using more productively (problem number one: I don’t know how to relax), but I also have a hard time justifying paying for a movie in theaters when I could stream Netflix on my computer for a small fraction of the price. Millennial problems. But, with so many well-reviewed movies out right now and the announcement of the Oscar nominees this week, I really want to see some of this year’s good movies! La La Land, Hidden Figures, Lion, Manchester by the Sea – which are worth seeing?!

Along with not knowing how to relax, I also overthink so many things! I know this is a problem, and one that so many people fall into, so I love this post about how to stop overthinking small issues. It helps determine the “small stuff” that you shouldn’t be sweating.

Did you attend a march last weekend? I went to our local one and was so inspired by all of the strong images and experiences I saw and heard from people all around the world who marched. It was amazing to see SO MANY PEOPLE come together, across cultures, ages, genders, races, even nationalities, over central issues. While we are in a time of huge division, the march brought so much hope and love to my week, and I hope that can continue. [The march was just the beginning. To continue to make a difference, educate yourself on who your representatives are, contact your members of congress (the Indivisible Guide gives great tips on this from former congressional staffers, and even provides a call script, and get involved in local town halls or organizations you are passionate about.

I wish I could accomplish half of the things in these two articles: how to never run out of ideas again and 20 life-changing habits. They seem to go with the January theme of fresh starts and new goals and routines, but February is just as good a time to start!

Have a wonderful Friday and a lovely weekend, friends.

homemade croissants

Homemade croissants, aka the best (and maybe only successful) yeasted baked good I can make. If you have been following along for a while, you know about my love-hate relationship with yeast. I like eating yeasted baked goods, but have struggled to get them right when I make them. Cookies, cakes and brownies – no problem; yeast rolls, doughnuts, babka – forget it. But croissants, one of the most time consuming yeasted breads out there, total success. How? Why? I don’t understand how that works, but it gives me hope that you can all make them too!

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

Back at the beginning of the month we prepared for lots of snow. While most people ran around the grocery store stocking up on milk and bread, we made sure we had enough eggs, butter and flour. I highly suggest this method of snow preparation. Instead of milk sandwiches (or whatever you do with gallons of milk and loaves of bread), we had warm croissants and cookies when we came in from the snow. Win.

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

This recipe is perfect for a snow day, weekend, or a few weeknights because, in the nature of good yeasted breads, it takes a long time. Do not let this deter you – most of the time is just for the dough to rest or rise, so, while the overall length of the project can take a while, the recipe is broken up into multiple steps that, individually, don’t take much time.

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

As someone who doesn’t make yeast breads often (or well), it was so exciting to see the dough rise and act according to the directions. I took before and after pictures each time I covered the dough so I could track the progress and see if it was actually rising. Every time I expected it to look the same and every time it had doubled in size. I would jump up and down with the excitement of a child on Christmas, take my photo, compare it to the first photo and run to show Will the difference. It’s the little things, right? ;)

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

This dough is amazing. You can actually see the layers on layers on layers when you roll it out and cut it and the baked croissants flake apart when you pull them. I saved half of our dough in the freezer to whip out when we have guests or just on a Saturday morning when we want it. I really expect the feeling of whipping freshly thawed homemade croissant dough out of the fridge to make me feel like Ina and Martha, and I will likely be sorely upset if it doesn’t. Don’t you imagine that’s how they live, with homemade croissant dough in their freezers at all times, ready for the unexpected houseguest? I like to think so.

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

I made plain, chocolate and funfetti croissants and cut the dough into triangles about half the size that the original recipe calls for. This gave us more croissants that were smaller, so we could try the different variations without feeling gluttonous. I highly recommend making the smaller version. The baked croissants keep in an airtight container for about a week and heat up wonderfully in the oven or a toaster oven. Alternately, you can make the dough and freeze what you don’t use before cutting or after cutting and rolling. To bake, place the frozen dough in the fridge to thaw overnight and bake according to recipe instructions.

I used the croissant recipe from Tartine (via Food52), but halved it and still ended up with plenty of dough. If you have a kitchen scale I recommend using the weight measurements, as that will be more precise, but I converted them into standard US measurements as well. The instructions on Food52 are very detailed, and I’m not sure I could explain the process better, so I linked their instructions below my halved, converted ingredients.

Homemade Croissants
3 ounces nonfat milk
1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
3 1/8 ounces (11 ¾ tablespoons) flour

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
7 ounces (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) whole milk
14 ounces (3 cups) flour
1 ¼ ounces (1 tablespoon + 2 ¾ teaspoons) sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons butter, melted

Roll-in Butter:
11 ounces (21 2/4 tablespoons) butter

Egg Wash:
1 egg
1 tablespoon cream or milk

Optional add-ins: chocolate; colorful cylindrical sprinkles, like jimmies (not nonpareils – the colors bleed)

Follow these instructions.

For chocolate croissants: place chopped chocolate in the center of the wide end of the dough triangle and roll the dough from the wide end to the tip, tucking the tip underneath the rolled croissant.

For funfetti croissants: pour sprinkles in the center of the wide end of the dough triangle (not too close to the edges), and roll from the wide end of the triangle to the tip, tucking the tip of the triangle under the rolled croissant. If you want sprinkles throughout the dough for even more of a funfetti effect (not pictured here), roll sprinkles into the butter before laminating the dough.

link love

Happy Friday! This “short” week has felt extremely long to me and I am ready for the weekend and all it brings. Here is some link love to get you to through the final stretch!

link love 1.20.2017via

President Barack Obama served his last full day as the President of the United States yesterday. NPR’s exit interview with president Obama from December is filled with lots of questions and lots of thoughts. We’ll miss you, Obamas. Thank you for serving the American people for the past eight years.

In lighter news, Beyonce interviewed her sister, Solange, and they talk about the negative connotation of control, and why they argue that it should not be viewed as a bad trait. There is girl power all over that article.

Recently I have had days where I am overcome with stress, even when there is not one specifically stressful event that occurs during the day. Sometimes I carry stress from previous days, when instead I should be starting on a fresh footing and brushing unneeded stress away at the end (or beginning) of the day. What am I stressed about? Sometimes I can’t even tell you, but I am in such a stressed out funk. This article about our brains defaulting to focus on negativity hit so close to home. Can we train neurons in our brains to overcome this tendency of negativity?

Are your good habits, newly founded for 2017 or longstanding, holding you back? This is an interesting topic and one we don’t usually think about.

These tips on things to think about before we speak are always needed. Is what you are going to say truthful, necessary, timely and kind? While we don’t always need to follow these guidelines, maybe we should all take a little more time to think before we speak, if not only to make our point more effective. As I think about one of my goals for the year, to be intentional, speaking purposefully in this way weighs on my mind.

almond banana bread

Date check. Yup, it’s still January. How are you doing on your goals?! Will and I ran past a gym this weekend and the parking lot was packed with cars. For the next 5 minutes of our run we discussed when we think most people drop their resolutions and the gym parking lot goes back to having empty spots scattered throughout. Do people hold out until February? Do they last longer than that? Was this the last weekend we will see a full parking lot? We didn’t come to a definitive answer, other than, “sometime before spring.”

Almond Banana Bread  (gluten free, refined sugar free and paleo!) | www.passthecookies.com

As I mentioned in my goals post for the year, I don’t set resolutions. So rather than set resolutions to just generally “eat healthier,” or “exercise more,” I strive to live a balanced life – balance in healthy and not so healthy food, exercise and rest, work and home. One aspect of this balance is finding ways to make treats healthier, which led to the creation of this almond banana bread. (more…)

goals for 2017 and january

We are 13 days into January and I am just finishing setting my goals for the year. Most people have already decided on and gotten started on their goals at this point, but I firmly believe in the idea that there is nothing magical about January 1st. We put so much pressure on January 1st, but goals can be set and enacted any day of the year. I like being able to relax and reflect at the end of the year and slowly figure out what it is that I truly want to focus on in the coming year once January comes. It gives me time to decompress and come off of the high of the holidays and reflect on the best parts of the entire year before. I also don’t love the word “resolutions,” but instead stick with goals and intentions, because these are not strict “dos” and “don’ts,” but rather things I want to accomplish, focus on and work toward throughout the year. These are deeper than the usual monthly goals, and I hope these intentions can guide my monthly goals throughout 2017.

Goals for 2017 and January

Goals for 2017:
Be intentional – There is only so much time in a day. I want to be more intentional with what I do and how I use it. I enjoy being busy, but can get overwhelmed when I book my days to the brim back-to-back-to-back without scheduled “me time.” I want to be intentional about what I choose to do, instead of trying to do it all. I want to reduce over-commitment (which will cause stress), and focus on the people and activities that bring joy to my life.

Deepen my faith – This is something I can always work on, but want to focus on even more this year. I want to pray more and read more of the bible. I want to find a routine for these things that works and incorporate it into my weeks in a way that is sustainable. I don’t know what this looks like yet, but hopefully I can find out as the year goes on!

Gain confidence that is not based on perfection – I recently realized that I often do not recognize the things I do well because I don’t think I’m doing them perfectly or well enough. Striving for perfection means that even when I am doing well at something, I am not confident in myself until I think I am doing each task or activity the best that it could be done. This is so bad! In the end, this leads to a lack of confidence in a lot of things, because no one is perfect at everything! I want to grow my confidence and remove the idea that perfection is a necessary variable in the equation to have confidence in anything.

Love others well – This kind of falls under the goal, “be intentional,” but I also want to separate it as another specific intention. I feel so loved when I receive kind texts and notes, and I also get so much joy from spreading love to others, on birthdays, during hard days or weeks, but also just during the mundane and routine days. I want to reach out to friends and family more often to check in and let them know I’m thinking of them, send unexpected snail mail, judge strangers less, continue generosity and follow how our donations impact the lives of others.

In addition to intentions, I want to focus on a word for the year: growth. Sometimes change can make me unsure and hold me back, but without change it is difficult to grow. There are so many aspects of my life where I want to grow and learn and build. When faced with challenges and change this year, I want to ask myself how I can grow from those instead of giving in and accepting stagnation or resisting change.

Now to get started on those intentions, I have more specific January goals!

Goals for January:
Take down and find storage for Christmas decorations
Clean out and organize the hall closet
Clean out and organize 2nd bedroom closet
Deep clean upstairs bathroom
Get plant for living area
Hang framed art in our room
Go on a date and spend intentional time with Will before shelf/STEP studying kicks into high gear
Do toning exercises twice a week
Make Valentine’s cards! :)

Do you have goals, intentions or resolutions for 2017? Share them in the comments! Let’s keep each other accountable!

pistachio coconut granola bars

Pistachio coconut granola bars are healthy, portable and packed with delicious flavors. Not to mention studded with green, yellow and purple from the colorful nuts.

Healthy pistachio coconut granola bars | www.passthecookies.com

In the past several years I have become a huge fan of nuts. I would grab a few handfuls of raw pecans and almonds every day after I got home from track practice in high school, but my love for nuts really kicked off my freshman year of college. My roommate would buy raw almonds in bulk and share them with me. They stayed hidden in blue and black square canvas bins (the one’s every other student in our dorm had) on our Ikea bookshelf, otherwise they would have been gone in a day. Ever since then I have been hooked on raw almonds, though other nuts have since found their place in my snacks.

Healthy pistachio coconut granola bars | www.passthecookies.com

Healthy pistachio coconut granola bars | www.passthecookies.com

Though they are one of the more flavorful nuts, I don’t often reach for pistachios. I see the shells, then I see the ready-to-eat almonds and pecans next to them and decide that I don’t want to go through the work of shelling nuts. Shelling pistachios isn’t all that bad, but I want a quick snack. So the pistachios sit on the shelf, waiting to be put out in a bowl for someone to remove their shells. Pistachio coconut granola bars fix that. You shell a bowl of pistachios in one go (or better yet, buy shelled pistachios!) and put them into a quick, easy-to-grab snack – one that doesn’t require shelling. :)

Healthy pistachio coconut granola bars | www.passthecookies.com

These granola bars are packed full of flavor and healthy ingredients that won’t break your resolutions. They are as quick and easy to make as they are to grab when you’re in need of a snack. All these qualities make them just what we need to start out this (very cold) new year. With the combination of coconut and oats, these bars combine the textures of typical granola bars and chewy macaroons. Speckles of brightly colored pistachios break up any monotony and add depth to the flavor of the bars. With the slightly salty and slightly sweet tastes, I am always satisfied after snacking on one of these granola bars.

Healthy pistachio coconut granola bars | www.passthecookies.com

Healthy pistachio coconut granola bars | www.passthecookies.com

Pistachio Coconut Granola Bars
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon almond butter
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups rolled oats
¾ cup pistachios, shelled and chopped
½ cup shredded coconut
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)

Note: This recipe makes fairly thin granola bars. If you want thicker bars use the same size pan to make them, but double the ingredients. To make these gluten free, use certified gluten free rolled oats. To make them vegan, substitute maple syrup for the honey.

Line a 9×9 inch baking pan with two strips of crisscrossing parchment paper that fit snugly against the base and the sides of the pan.

In a small bowl, combine the almond butter and honey. Microwave the mixture for 15-20 seconds, or until the honey is runny. Add the vanilla and stir the mixture until the ingredients are fully combined.

In a large bowl, mix together the rolled oats, pistachios, coconut, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom. Pour the almond butter mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until all of the dry ingredients are coated and the ingredients are evenly mixed. You don’t want any ingredients to be dry, otherwise your bars won’t stick together as well.

Transfer the granola to your prepared pan and spread it around evenly. Place a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper on top of the granola and use a sturdy drinking glass, or other flat surface, to firmly and evenly pack down the granola in the pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

When the bars are set, lift the parchment paper out of the pan (grab the opposite corners), and use a large, sharp knife to cut the bars into 3-4 rows and 3-4 columns. Store in an airtight container with parchment paper between the layers of bars, or individually wrap in plastic wrap or parchment paper for on-the-go snacks. These stay fresh at room temperature for a few days, but I find that they stay together better and stay good longer when stored in the fridge.

link love

The first week of 2017 is almost over – was it a good one for you? I hope so! I haven’t posted my goals and intentions for the year yet (I plan to do so soon!) but I feel so rejuvenated after a nice long break relaxing with family.  We have snow in the forecast this weekend and I’m excited to work on some new baking projects!

link love 1.6.2017via

Here is some link love for your weekend! I hope it’s a good one!

Since we are preparing for snow, this article seemed fitting. With only a few hours of sunlight a day and snow perpetually on the frigid ground, people in the Nordic countries are still happier than people in the US in the winter months. Why is this? On the whole, the US has more daylight hours and warmer temperatures, even in the north. Let’s light some candles and take a note from the Scandinavians on how to be happier in this cold season.

I have seen this ad on tv and on YouTube now, and loved it every time. Though it is easy to focus on the many struggles of 2016, this ad reminds us that love was shown in so many wonderful actions throughout the year. Focus on the search bar itself and how it encapsulates the loving words emulated from mouths, loving gestures given by hands, and love in the eyes of so many people. Love is out there…keep searching.

I have heard this more and more recently, and will likely experience it even more acutely if/when we move for Will’s residency, but making friends as an adult is rough, especially as an introvert. No one explains that to you as a child, or even in college, when you may need to hear it the most. At other times in your life you are surrounded by people your age who have the same interests and are all in the same place. When you enter the post-college world, you may have spurts of that here and there, but it is not nearly as easy to find, or as easy to make time to cultivate those interests, activities and friends. So we end up with this: making new friends as an adult is hard and scary. But we can do it…right?

As I mentioned earlier, I am working on writing out my goals and intentions for the year, however small or large. I have been following along with goal-setting guides and they have been extremely helpful for this type-A girl. If you are still working on coming up with your goals for the year, I highly recommend these guide posts from Cultivate What Matters. There are 5 blog posts (I linked the last one because it contains links to the previous posts) with podcasts, in case you want to listen instead of read about how to set goals and make them happen. One of the aspects I really love is that a large premise of the guides is that there is nothing magical about January 1st. If you made your goals and were ready to go on the first day of the new year, great! If you took the holiday break to relax and are just finalizing, or maybe haven’t even dug into your goals for this year, that’s great too! Let’s do it together!

One of my goals is to read more this year, and I have heard great things from many people about this book, Daring Greatly. Have you read it? Was it good? We’ll see if it makes the reading list!

One book I am currently reading, and loving, is Molly on the Range. Yes, it is a cookbook, but unlike the typical cookbook there are stories from Molly’s life before each section and intertwined in the recipe introductions. It truly is like a life story with recipes to showcase moments throughout her life. And Molly is one of the most interesting people! She is part Asian, part Jewish, went to Juilliard for percussion, spent years in NYC, and now lives on a sugar beet farm in North Dakota with her 5th generation sugar beet farmer husband and her recipes are influenced by all of this. Whattttt? You can’t make this stuff up. I love it.

Happy weekend! Stay safe and warm!

2nd blogiversary!

Yesterday marked the second anniversary of Pass the Cookies blog (a second blogiversary, if you will)!

Pass the Cookies 2nd blogiversary! | www.passthecookies.com

I started this blog in Will’s second semester of medical school, mainly to give me something to do while he studied at night and on weekends. I look ahead and see the few short years until medical school graduation, but don’t think about the time behind us very much. The start of medical school seems so far away now that Will is midway though his third year, and just as the two and a half year mark of med school came unexpectedly, the two year mark of this blog crept up on me as well. It has been a fun journey and I am so glad to have you here with me! I am so glad to have this space where I can share recipes, trips, tips, things I am loving and goals with you.

Throughout this blog journey I have learned more about recipe creation, cookie making, photography, and so much more. One of my favorite parts of this blog is hearing about the Pass the Cookies recipes you try! I absolutely love when someone tells me they made a recipe from the blog or shares a picture of a blog recipe they made. I know the recipes here span the difficulty range, some very easy, some more consuming, but those moments knowing that I can help other people bake, branch out and try new recipes bring me such joy!

Over the next year I am excited to learn and grow even more here, to share more recipes, trips and goals, among other things. Thank you for following along and coming back to Pass the Cookies! I can’t wait to see what is in store! And don’t worry, there will be a celebratory recipe soon ;)

Photo above is of the funfetti brownie cake with cookie dough frosting from earlier this year.