New Year. New Name.

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Happy New Year! With the start of another trip around the sun, I’ve decided to shake things up around here. Lolly’s Sweet & Savory Treats is now Hickory Creek Lane. Over the past few years, I have enjoyed making food, taking lots of pictures, and writing stories to go along with what’s going on in my kitchen. I don’t publish blog posts as much as I’d like, but I still find this little hobby of mine fun and I felt it was time to transition with the changes that have occurred in our neck of the woods.

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Most notably, we welcomed our little rump roast into the world two  years ago and we followed that with a move from the suburbs of Columbus to the rolling hills of Walnut Creek. My focus on food has shifted from making more complicated recipes and trying new restaurants downtown to creating nourishing and simpler family meals that invigorate our lives. I have also come to love the beautiful backdrop that now surrounds us in Ohio’s Amish Country and I want to find ways to incorporate more about this unique community we call home. IMG_9935

As for the name change… the land on which we live is peppered with shagbark hickory trees and there is a gentle creek that runs adjacent to our driveway. Hence, Hickory Creek Lane. I’m excited for the new year and new home cooking adventures in Amish Country. I hope you will stop back again soon. 🙂

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Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cookies with Bourbon Caramel Frosting

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I love the celebratory feeling in the air. The Christmas music jingling through radio speakers, the colorful lights peppering the night sky, and the excited anticipation of having a few days of vacation to spend with the ones we love. Just this week I was picking up a couple of last minute items at the grocery store and I was so pleasantly surprised by how many cordial exchanges I had with people I encountered. The store was packed, but nearly everyone seemed to be maintaining an attitude of Christmas cheer. Even when my own mood was slightly dampened after the cashier scanning the things I was buying didn’t ask to see my ID when she rang up the wine I had in my cart (first time this has happened), I couldn’t stay mildly offended too long because she was just so bubbly.  I did think about telling her my newly found interest in neck cream, but I refrained. Excellent decision on my part. I am very thankful I am on the eve of celebrating my 31st Christmas, silver strands of hair and all.

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That celebration wouldn’t be complete without Christmas cookies. I tend to struggle when it comes to making up my mind when I am trying to narrow down what treats I want to make for the holidays. I decided to revamp a traditional Amish cookie recipe that I love and came up with these vanilla bean buttermilk cookies with bourbon caramel frosting. The cookie from the previous recipe I used was good, but it was a little dense and tough. I reduced the amount of leavening agents, added an extra egg yolk, and used real vanilla seeds to make a cakier and more flavorful base. As for the frosting, I also added real vanilla bean seeds, kosher salt, and some good bourbon to enhance the depth of one of my favorite frostings of all time. I finished everything off with a sprinkling of toasted chopped pecans and the end result was a new and improved version that my family loved. I had so much fun experimenting with changes to this cookie that I am hoping to do more remixes of classic recipes. It’s an excellent creative outlet and a fantastic way to brush up on my seriously rusty knowledge of chemistry.

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There are only a few hours before old Saint Nick makes his rounds. I hope your shopping and preparations are drawing to an end and you are ready to enjoy this most wonderful time of year. May the joy of Christmas fill your homes and hearts; and may this next year be the best one yet. Peace on Earth and good will to men.

   

Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cookies with Bourbon Caramel Frosting

Yield: 4 dozen cookies

For the Cookies:

  • 1 cup ( 2 sticks) unsalted REAL® Butter, at room temperatures
  • 2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeded
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

For the Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted REAL® Butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeded
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons high quality bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark 46)
  • ½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped (optional)

Directions

For the cookies

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and ensure racks are positioned in the middle. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. Place butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk, one yolk at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the seeds/pulp from the vanilla bean. Mix until well-incorporated.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. In a 2 cup liquid measuring cup, stir together the baking soda and buttermilk. Turn the mixer on low, and alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure dough is evenly mixed.
  3. Use a 2 inch cookie scoop to drop dough onto baking sheets, spacing at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or just until the edges/bottom of the cookies have lightly browned. Be careful not to overbake. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

For the frosting:

  1. Place ½ cup unsalted butter into a medium-sized sauce pot. Melt butter over medium-low heat. Add the brown sugar and gently whisk until smooth. Bring mixture to a low boil before gradually adding in heavy cream while continuing to whisk constantly. Bring the caramel back to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes while continuing to whisk constantly. Turn the stove off and remove from heat. Add in the salt and vanilla bean seeds and mix to combine. Allow to cool to a luke-warm temperature.
  2. Add the powdered sugar to the cooled caramel, ½ cup at a time, and mix well with the whisk attachment of a handheld mixer (or a stand mixer if you prefer) after each addition. Add in the bourbon and mix until smooth. Frost the cooled cookies and sprinkle with chopped pecans, if desired. Enjoy!

Source: Lolly’s Sweet Treats Original

Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork)

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During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I find it very easy to get into a dinner recipe rut. With all of the Christmas cookies, festive parties, and overall chaos this time of year brings, cooking a meal is pretty low on my list.  That’s where the incredible folks at America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) come in. I can’t stop my feelings of passionate adoration for these people. I have several of their cookbooks and I recently discovered their podcast. Between visits to patients’ homes, I have been binge-listening (is that a thing?) to their amazing weekly programs and I stumbled upon a recipe for their Mexican pulled pork, often known as carnitas. Perhaps it was just my deeply-rooted love of rolling the “r” when saying Spanish words (thanks to my lovely high school profesora, Señora  Antequera); but caRRRRRRRRRRRnitas sounded like a perfect change up to our mundane weeknight rotation.

The prep for this dish is pretty simple and the seasonings are readily available. However, the inactive cooking time involves some planning ahead just because it requires 2 hours of baking in a low oven. I had a lot of stuff to get done on the day I made this and it was so nice to throw everything in my Dutch oven, pop it in the oven, and go about my business. If you don’t have the ability to be at home early enough to make this, I suspect it could be made a day in advance or even in a slow cooker. Perhaps I will have to try one of those methods the next time I make it because I absolutely will be making it again. The flavors are refreshing and not too overpowering and Robert loved it so much he used the leftovers to make some super crazy nachos.

If you are looking for something to jazz up your meal planning, look no further. I love you, ATK. So much that I may get your name tattooed on my arm.

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Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork)

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (3 1/2-4lb) boneless pork butt roast, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 orange, halved

For serving:

  • Flour tortillas
  • Minced bell peppers
  • Minced onions
  • Freshly shredded cheese
  • Salsa
  • Sour cream
  • Lime wedges

Directions

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine pork, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, cumin, onion, bay leaves, oregano, lime juice, and water in large Dutch oven (liquid should just barely cover meat). Juice orange into medium bowl and remove any seeds (you should have about ⅓ cup juice). Add juice and spent orange halves to pot. Bring mixture to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Place lid on pot and move to the oven. Cook until meat is soft and falls apart when poked with fork, about 2 hours, flipping pieces of meat once during cooking.

2. Remove pot from oven and turn oven to broil. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to bowl; remove orange halves, onion, and bay leaves from cooking liquid and discard (do not skim fat from liquid). Place pot over high heat (use caution, as handles will be very hot) and simmer liquid, stirring frequently, until thick and syrupy, about 10-12 minutes. There should be about 1 cup of reduced liquid at the end of the process.

3. Using 2 forks, pull each piece of pork in half. Fold in reduced liquid; season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread pork in even layer on wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet or on broiler pan (meat should cover almost entire surface of rack or broiler pan). Place baking sheet on lower-middle rack and broil until top of meat is well browned (but not burnt) and edges are slightly crisp, around 6-8 minutes.  Carefully flip pieces of meat and continue to broil until top is well browned and edges are slightly crisp, another 6-8 minutes. Serve immediately with toppings and warm tortillas. Enjoy!

Source: Directly from America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook (Page 281-282)