neopolitan sandwich cookies w/ strawberry milk buttercream frosting

Neopolitan Cookies

Neopolitan Sandwich Cookies – Jackson Pollock in cookie form

Sometimes the greatest discoveries are born out of failure or disappointment. Take these cookies for example. I had no aspirations towards greatness when this recipe came tumbling together in my kitchen–I did not intend to create Strawberry Milk Frosting that tastes EXACTLY like Strawberry Milk. I wish I could say that I could hit that flavor bullseye with my pure creative talent, but I am just not that good.

Instead, like many of my recipes, all of this started with a desire to use up what I had and not waste good food. I had a plan to create a set of adorable Super Bowl / Valentine’s cookies for my fella this year. A few years ago I spent some serious YouTube time learning about Royal Icing and the different consistencies that go into crafting the beautiful cookies and cookie designs that I’d always swooned over on Pinterest. This year, I thought I’d pull out this little-used talent and surprise my guy with some little football cookies with hearts on the laces and some play diagrams with little x’s and o’s. So cute right?

Well actually. It was lucky that I made a few cookies ahead of time as a test. I offered him one and then what happened next I’m not sure I even remember correctly because I may have blacked out. Witnesses have repeated the details to me so many times that I’m not sure I can tell truth from legend at this point. What I do know? What are the hard facts?–he doesn’t like my cookies. He. Doesn’t. Like. Them. On a scale of 1-10 he gave them a 4. The words store-bought came out of his mouth. #cutmyheartoutwithaspoon

Now, normally I don’t hyper-focus this much when someone doesn’t like something I make… and really no cook should. People have different tastes and preferences and they can like or dislike what they want. BUT. These are my well-received universally-loved sugar cookies! Everyone loves these cookies. These cookies have secured me job offers. These cookies have inspired children to use profanity in praising their goodness. And he doesn’t like them. /Sigh. It’s ok. I’m ok. I’m learning to cope in the aftermath of CookieGate. The key to remember is to just take one day at a time.

So. I had cookie dough already made and I didn’t want to waste it. I wanted to try and re-purpose it into something new that might have a chance of hitting more than a 4 on the deliciousness scale. Enter these Neopolitan Sandwich Cookies: Sugar Cookies sandwiched with Strawberry Milk Buttercream and drizzled with Chocolate? Heavens yes! Neopolitan was one of my favorite ice cream flavors when I was a kid because you got three amazing flavors in one scoop. It almost felt like cheating because you didn’t actually have to choose. It felt like cheating in the best way and all of the adults were somehow fine with it.

You might be wondering, does the boy like them? I don’t know yet. I’ve eaten at least 6 myself as part of my heart-healing process. They have soothed me. So before I open my shattered-self to the vulnerable possibility of a future cookie-debacle, I wanted to share them with you instead (my little Happies!) and get some real expert opinions first. You know. Just in case.

Neopolitan Cookies 2

Neopolitan Sandwich Cookies – Showing just a glimpse of their pink!

Neopolitan Sandwich Cookies

(Makes enough frosting and chocolate for roughly 12-16 sandwiches depending on the size of your cookies)

Ingredients:

  • Sugar Cookies – Mixed, rolled, cut into shapes, baked, and cooled. I use 1/2 of the Bon Appetit sugar cookie recipe here and cut them out into 3″ hearts.
  • Strawberry Milk Buttercream Frosting
    • 1 cup butter – softened to room temperature
    • 1 lb confectioners sugar (aka: powdered sugar)
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • Pinch salt
    • 6 drops LorAnn Oils Strawberry Flavor (aka: candy oil, super strength flavors)
    • up to 7 tsp water (or more if needed for consistency)
    • 6 large strawberries diced very small
    • Pink food coloring *optional* (I used Wilton gel)
  • Chocolate Drizzle
    • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chopped
    • 1 scant Tbsp coconut oil

Instructions:

For the buttercream: *Note! The flavors in frosting develop over time. I prefer the flavor of this frosting after it’s had a few hours to sit and mingle together.

  1. Place the butter and sugar into a mixer with beater attachments and beat on low until incorporated. You may need to scrape the sides down occasionally.
  2. Once the sugar is incorporated, mix in the vanilla, salt, and LorAnn Strawberry drops.
  3. Begin to add the water 1 teaspoon at a time. Mix thoroughly with each addition of water to gauge the consistency.
    • Consistency is key with frosting–adding too much water will make the frosting too thin and will cause it to smoosh (#technicalterm) out of the cookie. You want  a stiff icing consistency where it can be piped with a pastry bag but it can stand up to the sandwich.
    • I typically start with adding 4 teaspoons and then go up from there.
    • The weather, moisture in your home, and altitude can affect this quantity greatly.
  4. Once you’ve reached a spreadable but thick consistency, mix in the diced strawberries and color the frosting with food coloring if using.
  5. Spread a layer of frosting on a cooled sugar cookie with a knife or pastry bag. If you don’t have any pastry bags, using a Ziploc bag with a hole cut out of the corner is a great DIY!
  6. Create a sandwich with a second cookie. Repeat until all cookies are used. Try not to eat too much frosting as you go. Eat as much frosting from the bowl as you want. Just remember it will taste even better if you can wait a few hours!
  7. Pop the cookies into the fridge to stay firm while you make the Chocolate Drizzle

For the Chocolate Drizzle:

  1. Set a little metal bowl over a pot of simmering water on the stove or use a double boiler. Place the chocolate in the metal bowl and stir until melted. Remove from  heat. Alternatively you can also melt the chocolate in the microwave (do not use a metal bowl here!). Cook for 30 seconds and stir. Repeat as needed until chocolate is melted.
  2. Stir in the scant tablespoon of Coconut Oil and stir until blended.
  3. Using a spoon drizzle chocolate over the cookies or dip them or both! There is no wrong way. I personally prefer the drizzle. The dipped sections on my cookies were good, but for me the heavier chocolate overpowered the delicate deliciousness of the buttercream. If you’re a chocolate addict feel free to ignore my opinion and dip the entire cookie! (maybe make a double batch of the chocolate then)

 

Suggestions for use:

  • Valentine’s / Galentine’s gift
  • Anniversary present
  • After-lunch work dessert
  • As a special treat that you hide in a secret tupperware in the back of the fridge and sneak out after the children have gone to bed.
  • Soothing your heart-woes from a previous failed recipe attempt
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bibimbap & spicy gochujang sauce recipe

HAPPY NEW YEAR! How were your holidays? Did Santa come? Did you get appropriately sauced for New Year’s Eve? I want to hear all about it. Tell me in the comments and let’s catch up! For now let’s get on with the show.

Bibimbap. Have you heard of this Korean dish?

My first inkling to try Bibimbap was maybe ten years ago when I started watching cheesy Korean TV shows. I became a little obsessed with how they made my inner cheesy girl emotions SWOON. Literally cheesily swoon. I’ve seen all of the major ones. Heirs? Boys over Flowers? A super-cute one about a girl who wants to be a chef called, Pasta? Yeah. I’ve seen them all.

I decided a few years back that I wanted to embrace the culture that I was learning about and find a connection to fake people on tv Korean people and of course food seemed the best way to make that happen. I searched for a while and found a a teensy Korean restaurant out in the middle of nowhere. I went in. I ordered. I said “thank you” in Korean and was way too proud of myself. Sadly it utterly failed to impress. The rice was overcooked, the flavors were bland, and I really should have seen it coming because the restaurant was EMPTY. Like. I’m pretty sure crickets didn’t even want to chirp in there. I was utterly disappointed and thought surely this can’t be my only experience.

AND THEN. Like a star from the heavens, Kim Jong Smokehouse came to Portland and I saw the light.

short rib bibimbap from Kim Jong Smokehouse

Bibimbap is the original Korean bowl meal and translates to mean “mixed rice”. The basic plan involves starting with some rice in a bowl and adding various raw and sautéed veggies, kimchee, sliced meats, sauces, and often an egg. When looking at the basic plan, this may sound simple, but the sum of the parts absolutely combines into a magical comfort food that is like a warm hug to your belly and heart. And really, it’s mostly healthyish depending on all your toppings. January? Healthyish? Sound good so far? Your life needs this.

For a while I’ve been thinking about how I can make this part of my food repertoire at home. What made Bibimbap daunting to me for home cooking was the sheer number of toppings. Growing up in the US, my family ascribed to the typical Meat + Potato + 1 or 2 Veg formula for a meal. Looking at the beautiful color and variety often found in Bibimbap, it seems like a lot to make!

Fortunately, one of the blessings with Bibim (is that a culturally appropriate shortened nickname?) is that once you’ve taken the time to chop or quick sautee a topping, you often have enough for several bowls. That means it’s a good work-lunch solution you can take time to prep on Sunday. It’s also a great way to use up bits and ends of veggies and make quick toppings out of items when you don’t have enough for a full-on side dish.

first homemade bibimbap!

Well, what do you think? Pretty?

I had a long-weekend and some time for a food project so I used a few easy jar toppings but also took the time to make a few. My layers were:

  • Jasmine Rice
  • Sauteed Sesame Mustard Greens
  • Sauteed Mushrooms
  • Raw Carrot
  • Quick-Pickled Apple (Recipe coming soon!)
  • Kimchee (Jar)
  • Fried Shallots (Jar)
  • Fried Garlic (Jar)
  • Chicken Breast
  • Poached Egg (a fried egg is also great but I do recommend a runny yolk for Bibimbap)
  • Spicy Gochujang Sauce (Recipe below!)

that pickled apple tho

The jar items I purchased at the Hong Phat Food Center on SE 82nd and Burnside in Portland—although there are several great markets around now. I recommend you head to one near you and take the time to walk around every aisle, look at labels, and ask questions. You never know what wonderful surprises you’ll find! Definitely pick up that Fried Garlic, you’ll want to put it on everything.

sauce drizzle for dayze

 

SPICY GOCHUJANG SAUCE (perfect for korean bibimbap)

(Makes enough for 4-6 bowls depending on your level of sauciness)

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup gochujang paste
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp (or more to taste) honey or coconut syrup. I ended up using about 3 tbsp.
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp (or more to taste) fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp roughly chopped ginger
  • Water to thin
  • (all of your Bibimbap ingredients: rice / sliced meat / sautéed and raw veggies / egg)

Instructions:

  1. Put all of the sauce ingredients except the water in a small bowl and mix thoroughly.
  2. Add water to thin into a drizzling consistency—think maple syrup.
  3. Adjust the honey and the fish sauce to add any additional sweet or salt. Remember for sauces you want the flavors to be fairly strong because when you combine them with the rice and other veggies it will mellow.
  4. Put rice in a bowl. Layer your Bibimbap veggies around the bowl in pretty color sections. Add sliced meat. Top with egg. Drizzle with Spicy Gochujang Sauce.
  5. Mix and eat. Feel the comfort heart hug.

Suggestions for use:

  • Drizzled on a Bibimbap Bowl
  • Mixed with greek yogurt to make a spicy taco cream
  • Drizzled over french fries with feta cheese and fried herbs
  • As a grill marinade for chicken or pork

Tell me about you below: have you had Bibimbap before? Any other Korean food you’ve been loving lately? What are some of your favorite Asian market finds? Any suggestions for bowl toppings that bring your heart a comfort hug?

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cranberry gingerbread granola

Gingerbread Granola

When I was a kid growing up, I was fairly smart. My parents were committed to helping me learn as much as possible. I remember my father (who was a computer programmer right when computers were becoming a thing) printing off extra math questions onto giant green and white paper for me to do when I got home from school. The rule was that I had to do as many worksheets as I was tall. Spoiler alert: I’m tall. There’s a home video of me at six-years old learning how to use a compass–and not the compass like pointing to north compass, but the technical drafting math compass as used by engineers and architects. Please note that I never once have used a compass in my life since then. Even thought my parents tried so hard to make sure I had my facts and figures straight, there are so many weird facts and ideas that get stuck into your head when you’re a kid. For example, when childhood me would hear stories about Chicago and in my mind I would picture where Chicago was located on the map of the United States, it was somewhere around the Montana/North Dakota area. Yeah, I have no idea how that happened.

Today’s confession is that I’ve always had a similar struggle with the idea of when the seasons are supposed to happen, and in particular Winter. Let me explain. I am a sucker for Christmas. A. Sucker. I love everything about it. I love the idea of snow and hot chocolate and Santa and presents and the tree and decorations and warm mulled cider and reindeer and magic and and and and. My dream job is Mrs. Claus. Dream job. If Santa was real I would marry that man in a heartbeat. So for some reason, when I was a child and all through my adult life, Winter has always felt like it’s supposed to be the season leading to Christmas. Think about it. The weather for Winter is frosty, often bleak, and it’s colder than it should ever be… shouldn’t you have Christmas to look forward to? Christmas should be the idea that gets you through the Winter. It’s the celebration that honors and finds joy in the snow and it should signify that afterwards you get to move into Spring. Right? Right?!

No. Not right. Not at all right. Christmas is the START of Winter. You get all excited about the delightful holiday trappings and celebrating the season then SIX DAYS LATER you’re supposed to put all of your Christmas gear away and embrace eating healthy and working out and more vegetables. UGH. Double ugh. It’s too soon! It’s not fair! There’s still 3 MONTHS of horrible cold chilly rain/sleet/snow and all of the things that brought you seasonal joy are gone. Instead of your warming eggnog, here’s your thin celery stalk gruel. Cheers.

I thought about starting a petition to move Christmas to March, but I figured that I might get a little bit of resistance. Thus in order to combat my own personal seasonal bafflement I’ve decided to choose to celebrate the seasonal treats through throughout the entirety of Winter rather than overloading myself on everything within two weeks. Three months of Christmas treats! YESSSS! Here’s where the light dawns on this granola.

Gingebread Granola 2

Have you made your own granola yet? No? That’s ok, there’s no judgement here. I didn’t make my own until a couple of years ago. I’ve never been a huge believer in granola because I associated it with my childhood memories of trailmix. Big mistake. Trailmix is like working for food. Whatever one you bought, there’s something in there that you will obviously find gross that you’ll have to pick around, thus stopping you from eating handfuls at a time. My preferred food serving is a handful. Granola however is heaven-sent. It’s sweet, crunchy, chewy, with a touch of salt to bring out the flavors. It’s great on its own, but it adds even more magic as a topping for yogurt, overnight oats, chia pudding, regular pudding, pancakes, waffles–Do you see that?! Granola will give you an excuse to eat more waffles! Granola is also fantastic because it’s infinitely customizable to what you have in your pantry and what sounds good to you in the moment. Cherry Vanilla Almond is always a big hit in my house but I’m also very partial to Banana Anise. Any overflow you have makes a great foodie gift or hostess gift. Fair warning though: Once you open the gates to your own granola-making-heaven, it will be hard to stop. Get ready to have a new foodie-addiction!

This Cranberry Gingerbread Granola is perfect for Christmas, but will also treat you to some winter/Christmas flavors into ACTUAL WINTER, and making the lack of sun a bit more bearable. It makes quite a big batch, so spreading it out over two baking sheets is a good idea. Feel free to scale it down if you’re not sure you’re committed to the process yet and then just use one sheet. Spoiler alert: you should be committed.

Cranberry Gingerbread Granola

(Makes roughly 9 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 4.5 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking, I use gluten-free)
  • 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped raw pecans
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup black sesame seeds
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 3 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon (I use Penzeys Vietnamese Cinnamon which is quite strong)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 heaping cup dried cranberries (I use apple-sweetened which I buy at Natural Grocers)
  • 1/2 heaping cup golden raisins

**Note: Any of the above ingredients can be substituted. Don’t have pecans but you have some almonds? No problem, swap it. Don’t like maple syrup but you have some agave or coconut syrup? Swap it. Do you hate pumpkin seeds and the stores are closed and you have no other seeds within a 40 mile radius? Don’t worry, just add something else like pistachios or pinenuts or walnuts or or or. Trust the granola. Feel your inner granola-heaven. You got this.

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 and position the two oven racks at the upper and lower thirds.
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients from the oats through the salt. Stir to combine.
  4. In a smaller separate bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, melted coconut oil, molasses, vanilla, and the spices.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir several times to coat well.
  6. Add in the 3 egg whites and stir again to coat. <This step helps create clumps of granola>
  7. Divide the granola mix evenly between the two baking sheets.
  8. Bake for roughly 40-60 minutes. Stir the granola and rotate the baking sheets at roughly 15 minute intervals to keep your eye on its progress.
  9. The granola will be done when it smells good and toasted in the house. It may seem to still be slighly wet and sticky, but should dry as it cools.
  10. Once cool, stir in the cranberries and raisins. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container to maintain freshness.

Suggestions for use:

  • Sneak little handfuls while your coffee pot is heating up in the morning or while waiting for your waffles to cook.
  • Put in little portioned baggies for school or work lunches.
  • Put in decorative jars, bags, or boxes for hostess gifts, teacher gifts, or random Thursday gifts to a friend. (Why hello! It’s me, your blog friend. What is this surprise gift? Is today Thursday?)
  • Use as a topping for waffles, pancakes, yogurt, or smoothie bowls
  • Use as the crunchy element of a salad instead of croutons –Pear Blue Cheese Arugula maybe? Eh?
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letting it all settle – FEAST 2017 highlights

This year may have been the best FEAST yet. With more chefs, more classes, (more wine!), and the amazing after-hours events, I have to report that I am one happy lady. One of my goals this year was to balance my food focus and learn to take more shots of people. I wanted to try and up my photo-game. Take a look at all this goodness!

The Sandwich Invitational –  18 chefs brought their A-Game to fight for the judges top honor and people’s choice award. Congrats to Rick Gencarelli of Lardo for taking the overall award from the judges and Melissa McMillan of Pastrami Zombie for people’s choice. I brought my own tray from home (it’s a thing I do now #noshame) as a way to grab all of the bites right at the beginning. It’s my fool-proof plan for grabbing all the photos right at the start and getting photos in the natural light before the sun goes down. AND it has the added benefit that everyone stares and really wishes that they’d brought their own tray too. I have a feeling 2018 FEAST will see lots more trays out and about!

Lauretta Jeans’ putting together their biscuit sandwich entry

Chef John Tesar serving his famous pattie melt

dry aged pattie melt

Rick Gencarelli and his winning Nashville Hot Fried Chicken / bacon / honey butter / sweet pickles / duke’s mayo

sixteen of the delicious entries and yes I ate them all! even with a tray it was a balancing act to get all of these in one go. I missed two sandos because they were cooked seafood and that is a no for me. SORRIES!

 

Friday & Saturday Grand Tastings – For two days dozens of wineries, breweries, distillers, makers, restaurants, bakeries, and chefs descend on Pioneer Courthouse Square and turn it into a cavalcade of gastronomic delights. Sampling everything was a total treat!

Eliot’s yummy selection of nut butters – the garam masala might be my favorite

Oregon produces the majority of frozen berries in the US

the flakey layers of the la’ssant from Nola Doughnuts

and their APPLE FRITTER!

fresh poke from QuickFish

the Williams Sonoma booth: renowned chefs cooking in lovely FINEX cast iron

 

FEAST Drink Tank / Kilt’s Not Required: American Single Malt – This was the event where I learned the most; the  passion and experience that was shared by the speaking panel really made this hour informational and enjoyable. One of the most impactful things I learned was the inaccuracy of the “age statement” on a bottle of whiskey–did you know that was initially created as a marketing ploy when distillers had a bunch of old whiskey that didn’t sell? The age doesn’t have a premium effect for how they charge a premium price!

the loveliest place setting

tasting notes from the American single malt tasting

 

SMOKED! – I don’t think I’ve made it too much of a secret that I am a carnivorous human. After a couple of different bouts of eating plans I’ve tried through my 20’s, I’m fairly convinced that meat is an excellent protein source for me. However, please do not read this as any kind of judgement if your experience has led you to another place. I honor your choices and your ability to know what’s right for you. Are we good? Do we both love each other still? Excellent.

This meat-centric event is like my greatest dream. #meatasaurusrex. SMOKED! is the steepest ticket price, but it is the first event to sell out for a reason. Ohmystars. Take a look at this…

the wonderful crew from Sokol Blosser

Chef Adam Sappington brought Snake River Farms TOMAHAWK STEAKS – definitely my favorite bite. ribeye slices / grilled english muffin / bone marrow butter / fresh herby chimichurri

corn four ways

the freshest heavenly briney oysters

the people at FEAST are the best part – everyone is so warm and passionate about what they do

why yes, I will have a ricotta doughnut thank you

ok, so it’s not a secret any more that Matt’s BBQ is the best brisket in town… but taking brisket and adding chopped peach, fragrant rice, and jungle curry? DROOL

why yes I will have a second glass. cheers!

chefs go all out for these events as evidenced by the fact that there was bone marrow smothered in TARTARE!

mmmmeeeeeeaaaaaaatttttttttt

don’t forget the whiskey!

spicy pork vindaloo from Troy MacLarty, brilliant chef behind Bollywood Theater

bringing your own tray from home is still a bit of a balancing act

my happy place: tray of meat + glow sticks + giant tomahawk steak rib

 

It was a fantastic year, and I can’t wait to do it all over again. I’ll definitely be looking to do SMOKED! again and possibly a chef’s dinner. Also, if anyone has Adam Sappington’s direct line,  pretty please pass on that I need one of those tomahawk steaks as soon as possible. #insertsobbingemoji.

Rock on 2017!

a couple from SMOKED! has now dubbed me “tray lady”. ha!

 

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the FEAST schedule and extra events have dropped

Guys. I thought my pre-game plan for FEAST Portland was going to include eating salad for a week. And then I didn’t. I’m not sure exactly what will happen, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to need to buy a bigger belt. And that’s ok. I’M WORTH IT.

I’m headed to more events this year than I have before and I’m pretty giddy. It’s like foodie Christmas. Take a look:

Wednesday:

  • Williams Sonoma Welcome Party

 

Thursday:

  • Main Event: Sandwich Invitational
  • After Party: Ham & Eggs 80’s Party

Friday:

  • Media Breakfast
  • Health-Ade Kombucha Class
  • Main Event: Grand Tasting
  • PopUp: Milkbar’s Christina Tocci!!!
  • After Party: Saxx + Weiners

Saturday:

  • Secret Maker Brunch – SHHHHH!
  • Wiz Bang Bar + Souvla Sundae PopUp Event
  • Main Event: Grand Tasting
  • Rose All Day Drink Tank
  • Punch Drink Tank
  • Main Event: SMOKED!

Sunday: No events. Full on in-bed recovery day

I’m a total lightweight and let me tell you, FEAST is just as much about the great wine and alcohol as much as it is about the food! If you have any sure-fire hangover cures I’m all ears.

Yeah. I’m in trouble. There’s always an event or two that you don’t hear about until the last minute too.

Which events are you going to? Can I meet up with you somewhere and say hello? Are you taking part from home this year and having an Instagram follow-sesh? How can I help make you feel a part of it?—are there are things you want to hear more about or see more of? Do you love Instagram stories?—I’m horrible at those but I would learn if you wanted me to…that’s how important you are to me. Let me know what you’re most excited about in the comments below and we’ll crush the event together!

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