November 2017 archive

girls’ mountain weekend

Before November gets away from us, I want to share one of the most fun parts of October, both this year and last year. In my post on my quick trip to NYC I touched on the drastic difference between the mountains and the city, which was especially noticeable after visiting them only nine days apart.

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

We started the weekend off with brunch at a quaint coffee shop “in town.” I always find it so funny that we “go into town” when we visit. That is such a novel concept for me – the girl who takes public transportation to work. After brunch, we took our time meandering along the winding Blue Ridge Parkway, taking in the beautiful leaves and the fog rolling between the mountains. We hopped off in one of the towns along the parkway and stopped at a corn maze, which has likely already changed over to be a Christmas tree supplier. The whole weekend was what I imagine to be the quintessential fall mountain weekend: slow breakfast, Blue Ridge Parkway drives with changing leaves, and a corn maze to top it off.

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

It was so special to be able to spend some girl time together before this lovely long-time friend had her baby (welcome, baby Fletcher!). It was such a fun, and much-needed relaxing trip in the midst of an otherwise busy time. In this time of daily texts, fawning over the new life that our friend is nurturing, and giving thanks for all we have, I am more grateful than ever for these lifelong friends of mine. These friends who have been and always will be there for me, who support me and encourage me, and who lift me up and pray for me when I need it most. We have memories together dating back to when we were toddlers, and needless to say, have gone through lots of life changes together, but this sweet season of encouragement through our life changes is one of the best ones.

thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese

What do you do with your Thanksgiving leftovers?

Filled with turkey, sweet cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon, and gruyere, this Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese is easy, delicious and perfect for your day-after lunch. | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Filled with turkey, sweet cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon, and gruyere, this Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese is easy, delicious and perfect for your day-after lunch. | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

In my opinion, the only lunch option on the day after Thanksgiving should be some form of leftovers. For the traditionalists, there is the leftover plate – simply the same plate of food they made the day before, reheated. For those looking for a slight twist on the traditional leftover plate, there is the classic leftover sandwich, or bread topped with everything from the day before. I’ll admit, I like one traditional plate of Thanksgiving food after the big day, but after that it gets a bit boring. This year, we’re taking it a step further than the turkey sandwich with a Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese. Turkey, cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon mustard, melty gruyere cheese, and golden butter toasted bread come together for a sandwich that rises high above other family members’ boring leftover plates.

Filled with turkey, sweet cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon, and gruyere, this Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese is easy, delicious and perfect for your day-after lunch. | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Filled with turkey, sweet cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon, and gruyere, this Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese is easy, delicious and perfect for your day-after lunch. | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

We’ve done Thanksgiving leftovers in breakfast form with sweet potato biscuit sandwiches, in case you are looking for a whole day worth of leftover recipes, but gooey, melted cheese on warm toasted bread with all of the Thanksgiving toppings is hard to resist for Friday lunch. Granny Smith apples get slightly softened by the heat, but still add a little crunch and balance out the cranberry sauce perfectly and the Dijon provides a flavor you may not have tasted the day before.

Filled with turkey, sweet cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon, and gruyere, this Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese is easy, delicious and perfect for your day-after lunch. | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Filled with turkey, sweet cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon, and gruyere, this Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese is easy, delicious and perfect for your day-after lunch. | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Filled with turkey, sweet cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon, and gruyere, this Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese is easy, delicious and perfect for your day-after lunch. | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Maybe you plan on shopping all day for Black Friday? This is a great welcome home sandwich that those non-shoppers can make for you. It is quick, easy, and delicious, and uses up tasty leftovers too! The best combination.

Filled with turkey, sweet cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon, and gruyere, this Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese is easy, delicious and perfect for your day-after lunch. | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Filled with turkey, sweet cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon, and gruyere, this Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese is easy, delicious and perfect for your day-after lunch. | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Repurposed leftovers forever!

Thanksgiving Leftover Grilled Cheese
Makes one sandwich, but is easily multiplied

½ tablespoon butter
2 slices hearty bread
2-3 slices of leftover turkey
5 thin slices of granny smith apple (about ¼ of the apple)
4 ounces gruyere cheese, grated (can also use sharp white cheddar cheese)
2 ½ tablespoons leftover cranberry sauce
swipe of dijon mustard, to taste

I’m giving you exact measurements here, but feel free to adjust the measurements and make this how you like it!

Spread butter on the outside of one slice of bread. Spread cranberry sauce on the inside of one slice of bread and mustard on the inside of the other slice. Top both slices of bread with grated cheese (putting cheese on both sides will hold the sandwich together), then top one side with the turkey and apple slices. Put the two halves together.

In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter is melted and bubbling, place your sandwich in the skillet, with the buttered bread facing up (so the bread that was not buttered is now in the hot buttered skillet). Toast until golden, then flip and toast until golden on the second side and the cheese is melty. Serve immediately.

coffeeneuring

The title of this post may sound a bit strange, but stick with me here – I think you’ll like it. Coffeeneuring is touted as a relaxed cycling endeavor for people who like riding bikes and enjoy drinking coffee or tea. Over the course of six weeks, participants must ride their bikes at least two miles round-trip to seven different places that serve coffee (or coffee shop-type drinks) and take photos for evidence. The term coffeeneuring is made up, but has its roots in the French term randonneuring, which is a long distance cycling sport.

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Will’s stepdad is an active randonneur, completing at least one 200+ kilometer bike ride a month. Last year, he and Will’s mom participated in the coffeeneuring challenge. Each week they would invite us to join, but we would brush it off and think, there’s no way we can keep up with a cyclist who bikes 200+ kilometers a month, when we rarely bike anywhere. No way. When the coffeeneuring challenge approached this year, we were once again nudged to try it out.

For the past few years, Will has often used his bike to get to and from classes or early morning clinical rotations when he didn’t want to wake me up to drive him, but the buses weren’t running yet, but I hadn’t biked around town at all since my days of living in the Netherlands on my college study abroad trip. Biking in the Netherlands is a totally different experience from biking in the US. In the Netherlands there are dedicated bike stoplights, huge bike lanes and alleys, and overwhelmingly more bikes than cars. While our town is very bike-friendly compared to most cities and towns, I was still wary about our ability to bike to coffee shops around the area.

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

We decided to do a test ride the weekend before the official coffeeneuring challenge started to see if we could do it and how we liked it. We biked about 8.5 miles round-trip, up and down hills, and through campus, stopping at our local farmers’ market and the coffee shop. We loved it. While I was nervous at first, we quickly got the hang of it and, most importantly, didn’t take it too seriously and had fun along the way.

So we took on the full challenge and for the past five-ish weeks, Will and I have biked to one or two coffee shops a week, documenting our cycling-coffee dates each time. What we thought would be a difficult activity has turned into a fun date that we will likely continue past the sanctioned coffeeneuring challenge weeks. Each trip is a fun adventure that forces us to branch out and try something new – whether that is biking up huge hill, riding on a different portion of the greenway, or visiting a coffee shop we haven’t tried before.

These photos were all taken by the easiest thing for us to carry – an iPhone (and not the newest model at that), so pardon the poor quality. Also excuse the helmet heads – safety first! :)

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Date: October 13, 2017
Coffee shop: Coco + Bean
Drinks ordered: Will – drip coffee, Hope – steamed apple cider
Favorite part of this trip: As our first trip, my favorite part was showing ourselves that we could do this! I loved proving to ourselves that we could bike 8.5 miles, up hills, and to a coffee shop, and it was actually fun!

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Date: October 19, 2017
Coffee shop: Perennial Coffee
Drinks ordered: Will & Hope – drip coffee
Favorite part of this trip: The best part of this trip was the cute, quaint coffee shop experience on a quiet weekday. Perennial is a brand new coffee shop on Franklin Street and is covered in pretty green plants and Instagrammable tile floors and brick walls. It is a very thin shotgun-style building so most of the seating is upstairs. We went right when they opened before work on a weekday and it was fun to have the whole shop to ourselves.

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Date: October 21, 2017
Coffee shop: Caribou Coffee
Drinks ordered: Will – drip coffee (sensing a theme here?), Hope – pumpkin spice latte
Favorite part of this trip: We were originally planning on stopping at a cafe that was about two miles closer than Caribou, but when we got there we spontaneously decided to keep going. I’m not a spontaneous person, but it was so fun to again be able to show ourselves that we could go farther than we originally thought we could. Caribou is close to where we lived for the first two years we were married so it brought back fun memories too. After proving to ourselves (again) that we could go farther, my second favorite part of this ride was the brand spanking new (like not even fully complete yet) bike path/greenway that we discovered on our way back home. It was AMAZING and gorgeous, even though it unexpectedly ended in the steepest hill in all of Chapel Hill.

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Date: October 23, 2017
Coffee shop: Friends’ Cafe
Drinks ordered: Will – drip coffee, Hope – almond milk latte
Favorite part of this trip: Friends’ Cafe is one of my all time favorite coffee shops in the area. It isn’t gorgeous or fancy, but the people are nice, the drinks are great quality, and the atmosphere is always wonderful. We turned this coffeeneuring trip into a pre-work/school date. Besides just being in Friends’ Cafe, my favorite part of this one was being able to relax and ease into the day after a wonderful morning bike ride and coffee shop date.

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Date: October 27, 2017
Coffee shop: Open Eye Cafe
Drinks ordered: Will & Hope (shared both drinks) – hot chocolate and hot apple cider
Favorite part of this trip: This was our first colder ride, so from the get-go I had my mind set on cold weather drinks. Open Eye is another local coffee shop that I always love, so being able to spend a Friday evening together there with our first warm seasonal drinks was the best part of this ride.

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Date: October 31, 2017
Coffee shop: Gray Squirrel Coffee Co.
Drinks ordered: Will & Hope – drip coffee
Favorite part of this trip: Another pre-work/school ride was our Halloween trip to Gray Squirrel. Gray Squirrel just recently opened their own building (they used to share a building with a brewery) and I have been dying to visit. We weren’t able to spend much time here, but I realized (and appreciated) how much a morning coffee shop date can lift my mood for the whole day.

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Date: November 4, 2017
Coffee shop: Starbucks
Drinks ordered: Will – drip coffee (yup, no change here), Hope – “Joy” tea
Favorite part of this trip: I’m going to be totally cliche here and say that, behind being able to spend time with Will, my favorite part of this coffeeneuring jaunt was getting holiday tea in a “red cup” for the first time this season. That experience just makes you feel like everything is more joyful :)

So, what coffee shops should we try next?!*
*By bike or by car :)

maple caramel apple pie

We’re back with our second pie of the week – maple caramel apple pie! Pies can be very divisive. Some people love pies, some people can’t get into them; some people could eat fruit pies all day, and some will eat any pie except the fruit-filled ones (see yesterday’s chocolate chess bourbon pecan pie if that is you). There is the perception that pies are impossible to make. I don’t know if this stems from the process of making pie dough, decorating pies, or the different steps that go into the humble dessert, but it seems like a lot of people shy away from making pies because of this perception. This maple caramel apple pie is worth putting your pie insecurities aside. Break it down with me: buttery pie crust, cinnamon and apple filling, and maple caramel sauce. Worth. It.

Salted Maple Caramel Apple Pie | www.passthecookies.com

Salted Maple Caramel Apple Pie | www.passthecookies.com

I admit, I have long been a Pillsbury pie crust enthusiast, and still keep a box in the freezer to use in a pinch. But, when I was testing homemade dough for this pie I did a blind taste test between homemade dough and store-bought dough and was amazed at how much better the homemade pie crust looked and tasted. There was no comparison! Though it is more of a process to make, the taste is so much richer and more complex. I am now a homemade pie dough convert through and through.

Salted Maple Caramel Apple Pie | www.passthecookies.com

Salted Maple Caramel Apple Pie | www.passthecookies.com

Where the store-bought dough was pale and lackluster in flavor, the homemade pie crust on this pie is golden, flaky, and perfectly buttery. It was so good that I baked up the scraps from the pie and ate them like cookies for the rest of the afternoon. Follow my lead – they were delicious.

Maple Caramel Sauce | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Salted Maple Caramel Apple Pie | www.passthecookies.com

The pie filling itself is so easy to make. Grab a bag of tart apples and peel away before chop, chop, chopping them up. A quick toss in lemon juice and cinnamon brings bright, but cozy scents to the pie. We pour a nice hearty serving of our maple caramel sauce (I told you we would use it soon ;) ) all over the filling before topping with the rest of the pie dough. The apples slowly cook down in the pie, giving off such a quintessential fall scent that drifts throughout the house and creates the perfect escape from the chill in the air outside. I can’t decide if the maple caramel sauce, the buttery pie crust, or the mounds of apples are my favorite part of this recipe – it is so hard to pick just one.

Salted Maple Caramel Apple Pie | www.passthecookies.com

Salted Maple Caramel Apple Pie | www.passthecookies.com

Find the recipe for this delicious twist on the classic American apple pie over on Lexi’s blog today. If you make maple caramel apple pie, I’d love to see it! Tag me (@hopehwoodhouse) on Instagram so I can follow your adventures with these recipes!

Salted Maple Caramel Apple Pie | www.passthecookies.com

chocolate chess bourbon pecan pie

It’s the week before Thanksgiving, aka Thanksgiving menu prep week! Start rolling your pie dough, because you won’t want to miss the two pies I’m sharing this week, starting with a chocolate chess bourbon pecan pie!

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Like most people, our family’s Thanksgiving meal is pretty much the same every year. Though we stick to a traditional dinner menu, the desserts can change. Some years we have a fall cake (this one, this one, and this one are in the running this year), but no matter what, there is always a pie of some sort. Pumpkin pie and apple pie are the usual culprits, but my mom’s chocolate chess pie and a bourbon pecan pie we have made for years are my two favorites. Earlier this month I thought, if chocolate chess and bourbon pecan pie are my favorites, why not combine them for the best of both pies?! The mash up that resulted is amazing!

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Growing up, chocolate chess pie was a staple in our house when guests would come. It is rich and delicious and always receives complements. The first year I spent Thanksgiving with Will’s family while we were still dating, I brought two of my mom’s chocolate chess pies to share. They were quickly demolished and I was instructed that whether or not I could make it to the next family gathering, those pies were welcome. I now bring them whenever I visit and it is so fun to see the pie that has so many memories in my family creating new holiday traditions and memories in Will’s family.

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Our other go-to pie is chocolate chip bourbon pecan pie, which was actually one of the first recipes on the blog (you can find it in the recipe archives, but don’t judge the photos from those early days). Filled with chopped pecans, and topped with pecan halves, the pie has a great texture. You can truly taste the bourbon in the pie (another reason it is so tasty), but if that’s not your thing, just cut back on the amount you add.

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Chocolate chess bourbon pecan pie is an amazing combination of two already wonderful pies. The rich chocolaty goodness from the chocolate chess pie pairs beautifully with the toasted pecans. The gooey pecan pie filling meets the thick, custard-like filling of the chess pie, resulting in a beautiful marriage of the two textures – a pie that is not too thick, but still holds its chocolaty shape when cut. A large dollop of freshly made whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream are the only garnishes you need for the picture perfect plate of Thanksgiving pie.

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Pecan pies are a showstopper on any dessert table, and with a chocolate chess pie base and a hint of bourbon, this chocolate chess bourbon pecan pie is sure to be a hit.

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie
Makes 2-3 pies, depending on the size/depth of your pie dishes
3 pie crusts (one is optional for decorating)
1 chocolate chess pie recipe (recipe follows)
1 bourbon pecan pie recipe (recipe follows)

Chocolate Chess Pie
10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) butter
3 ¼ ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
2 ¼ tablespoons dark corn syrup
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Bourbon Pecan Pie
4 cups pecan halves, toasted
6 eggs
1 ½ cups dark corn syrup
6 tablespoons sugar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
3-6 tablespoons bourbon, based on your preference (I like closer to 6)

Pie Crust*
2 ½ cups flour
pinch of salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks), cut into ½-inch cubes
½ cup ice water, or more as needed

*This pie crust recipe makes one crust. If you want to make all three, triple the recipe and split it into 3 equal-sized balls, or make three recipes separately. This pie crust is delicious, but no shame if you use the convenient frozen pie crusts – it’s a busy season after all!

My pie dishes are pretty deep, so this recipe only makes two pies. If you are using shallow pie dishes it might make three, in which case make sure you make three pie crusts, and add one more for decorating, if you wish.

Make the pie crust
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the butter and toss in the flour mixture to coat. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until it is the size of walnut halves.

Make a well in the middle of the butter-flour mixture and add the ice water, one tablespoon at a time. Mix after each addition just until the dough comes together.

Separate the dough into two equal balls. Roll out the dough balls into small rounds, wrap them in plastic wrap, and chill well before rolling to their full size (about 12 inches) for baking.
When you are ready to make the pies, transfer your rolled-out pie dough to a pie dish and carefully work it into the edges. Fold under any dough that hangs over the edge of the pie dish and crimp the edges as you go around the pan. Wrap the prepared pie plates in plastic wrap and freeze while you prepare the pie fillings.

Make the chocolate chess pie
In a large saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over very low heat.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs, then stir in the sugar. Stir the egg and sugar mixture into the melted chocolate and butter. Mix in flour, corn syrup, milk, and vanilla. Pour the pie batter into the prepared pie dishes.

Make the bourbon pecan pie and assemble pies
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coarsely chop 1½ cups of pecan halves. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs. Stir in the corn syrup, sugars, butter, salt, vanilla, and bourbon. Mix in the chopped pecans. Slowly pour the pecan pie filling on top of the chocolate chess pie filling. Top the pies with the reserved pecan halves.

Bake about 50-60 minutes, until the pies are set and no clumps come out on a toothpick inserted into the center. If the crust starts to get too brown, cover the edges with strips of aluminum foil. Cool the pies on wire racks. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of homemade whipped cream. Store the pies at room temperature or in the refrigerator, tightly covered in plastic wrap.

If you make this recipe, I’d love to see it! Tag me (@hopewoodhouse) on Instagram or leave a comment below so I can follow your baking adventures this holiday season!

link love

Happy happy Friday, friends! I am excited about the cold weather we have been having – it finally feels like fall! Someone mentioned yesterday that we were only two weeks away from Thanksgiving. Can you believe that?! Maybe it was the warmer weather we had in October, but it feels like November barely started. I have a busy weekend ahead, but I’m trying to squeeze in a little time to relax before the real craziness of the holiday season kicks into high gear.

link love 11.10.2017via

Before the weekend gets started, here is some link love to enjoy from this week.

I love this collection of lessons from female entrepreneurs. I have been listening to some of the stories about female entrepreneurs on the “How I Built This” podcast recently and find them so empowering and inspiring. This post was right in line with that and provides real-life business advice from women who have built up their own businesses.

Each Olympic season I am a sucker for the Procter and Gamble “Thank You, Mom” commercials. This year is no exception. I seriously teared up when I saw their new commercial for the 2018 Winter Olympics. It is so sweet.

In the last 24 hours (more like 10 hours), the buzz in the music world has been about Taylor Swift’s new album, but did you hear that Beyonce is going to be in the new live-action Lion King movie?!?!!! So excited!

Ready or not (I’m not), the holidays are coming like a freight train. I’m always intrigued by Oprah’s annual “favorite things” list. While I have never intentionally set out to buy any of the items on her favorite things list, it can be a fun place to find new items that I didn’t know about, get ideas for what other people might like, and see which items I love made the cut.

Last, but certainly not least, the NYC Marathon was last Sunday and I have been reading about it all week. As a runner and a UNC grad, Shalane Flanagan’s win was so exciting! But, I also love seeing the photos of “regular” people, who aren’t necessarily professional athletes, running the big race. The NYC Marathon is such a unique race, spanning across five bridges and through all five boroughs, and seems to really embody the diversity and excitement of the city itself. Seeing these photos makes me want to go on a run too!

Have a wonderful weekend!

new york through an iphone

I mentioned in my November goals post that October was a busy month, both for work and in my personal life. The two biggest, and most fun, parts of the month were the trips I took: a girls weekend in the NC mountains to visit a friend who is due with her first baby any day now, and to NYC for a work conference. Which the changing leaves and cooler temperatures, both were such amazing places to visit in October.

After visiting the mountains, New York was a stark, but fun change. The leaves in the city were changing colors and the weather was crisp and cool, especially on my last day. I have been to New York in October before, but this trip convinced me that October is the best time to visit the city. It was beautiful and just what you expect from New York in the fall.

NYC October 2017 | www.passthecookies.com

NYC October 2017 | www.passthecookies.com

While I came for a work conference, I stayed with one of my college suitemates and had so much fun seeing her favorite places and exploring the city on my own. I wish I could do it all over again. Since I was only there for a short period of time, I packed light and left my camera behind, so these iPhone pics are all I have from this trip. They aren’t the best quality, but they still show New York in it’s fall glory.

NYC October 2017 | www.passthecookies.com

My flight didn’t leave until the afternoon the day after the conference, so I had the whole morning to wander and chose to do so on the upper west side. I decided to immerse myself in the New York way and grabbed a hot bagel from Absolute Bagels to eat on a park bench in Riverside Park, just one block away. I have been to NYC multiple times, and have spent time in Central Park, of course, and even Prospect Park, where my half marathon finished two years ago, but had never been to Riverside Park. It was amazing! The three-level park extends most of the way down the west side of Manhattan, sandwiched between the Hudson River and beautiful brownstones. There are bike paths that wind though the park and playgrounds every few blocks. I always find it amazing how great New York is about creating and maintaining green space. While I was eating breakfast I saw crews cleaning the paths, blowing the sand from the sandboxes out of the playground area, and picking up trash from the edges of the streets. The whole park was immaculate and peaceful, even though there were bustling streets just one and two blocks away.

NYC October 2017-7

NYC October 2017 | www.passthecookies.com

After my bagel and UWS wanderings, I made my way to Columbia University, grabbed coffee, and explored campus until I had to head to the airport. Campus was very pretty, but not what I expected. The buildings seemed to all be in different styles of architecture and were on different planes. I’m sure if I had been able to stay a little longer and walk around more the design may have made more sense. Despite the confusing planes, it was cool to walk off of busy streets with tall buildings onto a typical college campus. It didn’t feel like it was in the middle of NYC at all.

NYC October 2017 | www.passthecookies.com

NYC October 2017 | www.passthecookies.com

NYC October 2017 | www.passthecookies.com

NYC October 2017 | www.passthecookies.com

It was fun to explore new places and return to some of the places we went last time (because you can’t have too many Levain Bakery cookies). By the end my trip, I felt like I could navigate the city by myself. With each trip, I see new places and enjoy the city even more. I don’t have plans to go back anytime soon, but looking at these photos makes me want to book a ticket.

NYC October 2017 | www.passthecookies.com

brown butter sweet potato cake with chocolate ganache and molasses buttercream

Are you ready to shine at your Thanksgiving or friendsgiving dinner? Make this brown butter sweet potato cake with chocolate ganache and molasses buttercream and you’re sure to be the hit of the party.

Brown Butter Sweet Potato Cake with Bourbon Molasses Frosting | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Brown Butter Sweet Potato Cake with Bourbon Molasses Frosting | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Brown Butter Sweet Potato Cake with Bourbon Molasses Frosting | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

While cookies are my favorite baked good to make (no surprise there), beautiful towering layer cakes always impress me. I’m not typically a cake lover (yet another reason I’m #teamcookie), but the other day when someone asked me for some of my favorite blog recipes, the amazing pumpkin pie cake from last year and the popular chocolate cake with whiskey caramel buttercream and dark chocolate ganache frosting from earlier this year were both at the top of the list. I take this to mean two things. First, because I’m not a big cake person, I only post cakes I love, which makes them rise to the top of the list. Second, thought they take longer to make, cakes feel fancy and exciting. After all, I keep cookie dough to bake at a moments notice for everyday occasions, but layer cakes are reserved for special occasions. Today, I’m bringing you a cake that fits in both of those categories. Sweet potato cake with chocolate ganache and molasses buttercream is both a cake I really love and is perfect for special occasions like a big Thanksgiving or friendsgiving meal.

Brown Butter Sweet Potato Cake with Bourbon Molasses Frosting | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Brown Butter Sweet Potato Cake with Bourbon Molasses Frosting | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

This sweet potato cake with chocolate ganache and molasses buttercream is like a big Thanksgiving hug in cake form. The sweet potato and molasses flavors bring back memories of scooping sweet potato casserole onto my plate at my grandmother’s house every year, and the brown butter flavor comes through just enough to enhance the flavor of the cake without taking over.

Brown Butter Sweet Potato Cake with Bourbon Molasses Frosting | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Brown Butter Sweet Potato Cake with Bourbon Molasses Frosting | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

One bite of that thick slice of cake garners the nostalgia of a full stomach and full heart as loved ones sit around the table after a big Thanksgiving meal, too stuffed to eat anything else, but still eager to fit in one more bite of dessert before the tryptophan kicks in for the evening.

Brown Butter Sweet Potato Cake with Bourbon Molasses Frosting | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Brown Butter Sweet Potato Cake with Bourbon Molasses Frosting | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Standing tall with three layers and two types of filling, this cake is sure to impress. Go the extra mile and pipe leftover frosting or marshmallow cream on top, sprinkle it with cocoa powder and cinnamon, and you have a cake that is sure to wow guests not only with it’s looks, but also with it’s delicious taste. It is those little details that don’t take long (you already have the frosting whipped up and would otherwise throw it away, right?), but make the cake special occasion-ready.

Brown Butter Sweet Potato Cake with Bourbon Molasses Frosting and Chocolate Ganache Filling

Sweet Potato Cake
22 oz baked sweet potatoes (almost 2 pounds of unbaked sweet potatoes, or about 4-6 medium sweet potatoes)*
3 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups (4 sticks) butter
1 ¼ cups brown sugar
1 ¾ cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 eggs

*The first time I tried to make this cake I measured my sweet potatoes before baking them, then when I measured after they were baked the amount wasn’t nearly the same. I used about 4-5 medium sweet potatoes (almost 2 pounds of unbaked sweet potatoes), which turned out to be just about 22 ounces, with a little extra for tasting. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can go measure almost 2 pounds of unbaked sweet potatoes at the grocery store before you buy them and use that measurement.

Sweet Potato Cake
Roast the sweet potatoes: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Prick sweet potatoes all over with a fork and place on your baking sheet. Roast for about 1 hour, or until the potatoes are soft and begin to caramelize. Let them rest until they are cool enough to touch. If you are not baking the cake right away, these can be kept in fridge for up to three days. Peel the cooled sweet potatoes and mash the orange potato.

Brown the butter: Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling occasionally, until butter turns brown and has a nutty smell. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. The butter is ready when it feels like a room temperature stick of butter. To speed up this process you can place the browned butter in a bowl in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8″ round pans and line with parchment paper circles, then butter again and coat with flour.

In large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 2 to 4 minutes.

With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each egg. Add the vanilla and mix until combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Add the flour mixture in two batches. Do not over mix. I mixed too much the first time I made this cake and it came out extremely dense. Learn from my mistakes and mix just until no streaks of flour remain, then stop. Scrape down the bowl again.

Gently fold the mashed sweet potatoes into the batter with a rubber spatula.

Divide batter evenly between the three 8″ round pans and bake for 30-32 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 10 to 15 minutes, then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.

Bourbon Molasses Buttercream
10 large egg whites
3 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons molasses, divided
4 cups (8 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons bourbon

Boil a small saucepan (or double boiler) of water. In a heatproof bowl, lightly whisk egg whites, sugar, and 2 tablespoons molasses in over, but not touching, the boiling water. You want to gently heat the eggs so they get warm but not cooked. Whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch (it should reach 155 to 160 degrees F on a candy thermometer). Transfer the egg white-sugar mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed for about 8-10 minutes, until the meringue is shiny, holds stiff peaks, and has cooled to room temperature. The outside of the mixing bowl should be room temperature when you touch it.

Swap the whisk attachment for the paddle attachment and begin to add the butter, a couple of tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Adding the butter too quickly can cause your buttercream to curdle. After all of the butter has been added, increase speed to high and beat until thick and very fluffy. Stop the mixer and add the bourbon. Mix on medium speed and stream in the additional 4 to 6 tablespoons of molasses, depending on your preference (I like to use 6). Beat again until molasses is thoroughly mixed and frosting is still fluffy. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use. If you refrigerate the buttercream, let it warm to room temperature before using and beat it again until it becomes fluffy again. If your buttercream is too liquidy to use, place it in the fridge for about 15 minutes, then beat it again.

november goals

October was so full and so good. Going into the month I was coming off of a very busy September, and I knew that November would be a busy month too. October started out hectic, but between Will’s fall break, my trips to the mountains and to NYC, and some good family time, October ended up being just what I needed. It was busy and filled with lots of activity, but still restful because the activity was not stressful. On top of that, the weather finally cooled down and the gorgeous colors popped on the trees. Overall, I’d take October again in a heartbeat. Here’s hoping that November can compete! :)

November Goals 2017

October goals:
– Enjoy a fall treat – pumpkin chocolate chip bread, Levain cookies (not necessarily a “fall treat,” but definitely a treat in the fall)
– Take advantage of the cooler weather by exercising outside regularly, including a run on the “Pumpkin Loop” – I did run outside regularly (the weather was amazing!), but not on the Pumpkin Loop, so moving this one to next month.
– Make a new soup recipe – Tried this butternut squash soup and this tomato soup. Both were great, but the tomato soup has been on repeat!
– Enjoy relaxing time with family on our siblings’ fall breaks – <3
– Enjoy time with friends on trips for work (NYC) and fun (mountains) – Both were so good! The photo above is from my trip to NYC. If I can get my act together I’ll be sharing more soon!
– Use my time efficiently at work and at home – less mindless checking and refreshing Instagram, no Instagram after 10pm – This was such a good goal and I’m so glad I stuck to it. I already feel like I have dropped the habit of checking social media late at night, but I’m carrying it over until I’m sure it sticks.
– Drink at least 80 oz of water a day – I am usually good at getting at least 68, but have been lax about this recently and feeling dehydrated because of it. – Crossing this off because I did this almost every day, but was bad about it while I was traveling (I hate using airplane bathrooms). Moving it to next month so I can continue to get into a better habit.
– Dress up to give candy to trick-or-treaters! – I was Cinderella :)
– Make a practice-round dish for Thanksgiving – We made brown butter maple sweet potatoes with my family while my brother was home for fall break!

November goals:
– Vote!
– Celebrate 10 years with Will!!!
– Make a new pie recipe
– Drink at least 80 ounces of water a day
– Go on a walk/run on nearby trails (maybe on the Pumpkin loop, since I missed that last month) to enjoy the last of the fall leaves and weather
– Continue to exercise outside even as the weather gets colder and the amount of sunlight gets shorter
– Stretch at least 3 times a week (I got a charley horse (so painful!) twice last month and I’m hoping to stretch more to try to prevent that happening this month.)
– Use my time efficiently at work and at home – less mindless checking and refreshing Instagram, no Instagram after 10pm
– Acknowledge at least one thing I’m grateful for each day (I do this every few days, and should be doing this everyday, but I figure Thanksgiving month is a good time to start this habit!)
– Finish our “coffeeneuring” adventures strong (more on this soon!)
– Spend time with family and rest over Thanksgiving
– Plan/purchase most of our Christmas gifts

Do you have any big (or small) goals for this month? Leave them in the comments below!