Puff Pastry Apple Tarts

Puff Pastry Apple Tart

Lucy is buzzing in our bedroom. It’s her bedtime, and I’ve exhausted my reservoir. We’ve nursed, we’ve snuggled, we’ve read bedtime stories…and yet, she’s wide awake. And so her Papa is back there now. I can hear her climbing over him, her shirt rustling as it rubs up against the sheets, up against his plaid shirt. I have a feeling we’ll be at this for a good while.

And yet I understand. I know what it feels like to be filled up with possibility. She’s perceiving so much now; she’s interacting with her world. There are a hundred new places to explore…and she wants to find every one…especially when we want her to go to bed.

Puff Pastry Apple Tart

I’m also excited about what’s surrounding our family right now. We’re exploring Colorado together, falling in love with some of it’s hidden beauty and meeting people who are doing things that inspire us, make us feel more alive. Each Wednesday, we visit the Farmer’s Market at Ivywild, and I’ve been thrilled that along with those famous Colorado peaches, apples have been making an appearance at one of the stands.

These puff pastry apple tarts couldn’t be easier…or more delicious. I only buy Dufour puff pastry, and I highly recommend the investment. Yes, it’s more expensive, but it’s devoid of all the preservatives and artificial dough enhancers that plague the cheaper varieties. What you get with Dufour is flour and butter (which is exactly what you want!) I cooked my apples in butter, cinnamon and coconut sugar on the stove to release their juices early and bring about caramelization. Then I spooned the apple mixture into the puff pastry shells. Within twenty minutes, I had a beautiful dessert in the oven.

Puff Pastry Apple Tart

Puff Pastry Apple Tart

1 package Dufour puff pastry

3 large apples, peeled, cored, and diced

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons coconut sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Allow puff pastry to defrost in refrigerator as recommended on package.

Melt butter over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add apples, cinnamon, and sugar. Cook until apples begin to caramelize, about 10 minutes, stirring often. Allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 400 F. On a lightly floured surface, unfold pastry dough. Cut into six equal pieces. Using a rolling pin, gently roll each piece into a square. Place squares on parchment lined cookie sheet. Scoop about 1/3 to 1/2 cup apple mixture onto the middle of each square. You want to leave a one-inch border around apples. Then, gently fold up edges of pastry dough, crimping lightly with wet fingers. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until pastry has puffed and turned a rich golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Chewy Coconut Granola Cookies

Chewy Coconut Sugar Cookie

My daughter is twenty-some pounds of pure energy. She wakes each morning and clambers over my still-sleeping body. She leads us through our days with laughter, running, and shrieks of joy. And I’m loving the moments we share together. The way her eyes light up when we ┬ásee someone we love…the joy she takes in picking out her favorite book for us to read together on the living room floor. But I would be lying if I didn’t say there were hard moments. I think Lulu and I would agree that the “entering the carseat” serves as one of our most trying daily activities.


Lulu doesn’t mind the carseat once we’ve driven out from our garage and picked up speed on the street. She’ll settle in quickly and often fall into a deep sleep. But when we bring her down to the garage and ask her to sit calmly while we buckle her in…she protests with all the strength that a 15-month-old can muster (and I promise you, it’s more strength than I ever would have guessed possible).

Chewy Coconut Sugar Cookies

Case in point: I pulled several muscles in my back on Monday. I’ve been icing and heating and stretching and visiting the chiropractor. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I imagined it had something to do with having to reach over and keep my daughter from flying out of the car and onto the concrete. We never force her to get in…but she certainly tries to force her way out! And so I’ve been moving slower this week. I’ve been sitting down on the ground to play with Lulu instead of picking her up. I’m uncomfortable and slightly grouchy about the near-constant pain, but I’m thankful that my daughter is learning what it means to be assertive and independent (even though it’s a painful and trying lesson for us all).

But despite the swelling and the occasional spasm in my back, I made these cookies on Monday night. They’re soft and chewy, sweetened only with coconut sugar and then rolled in my favorite granola. They make the perfect afternoon-snack. A wholesome treat that comes together easily but tastes like something your great-grandma might have spent the whole day making. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do. (And I also hope that when I talk to you next week…my back will be much much better!)

Chewy Coconut Granola Cookies

Chewy Coconut Granola Cookies

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tarter

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cups butter, melted

1 cup coconut sugar (brown sugar works too!)

1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup granola (I use purely Elizabeth!)

Mix together the flours, baking soda, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a medium, whisk together the melted butter and coconut sugar. Whisk in the egg and the vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, combine the wet ingredients with the dry. The dough will be very soft, yet thick. Cover the dough and chill for 2 hours, or up to 3 days.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and allow to slightly soften at room temperature. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 325 F degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pour the granola into a bowl. Take 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball, then roll into the granola. Bake for precisely 8-9 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently press the top of the cookie down with the back of a spoon. Place back into the oven for 1-2 more minutes. Cookies will be puffy and still appear very soft in the middle. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for ten minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cookies stay soft and fresh for 7 whole days at room temperature. Cookies may be frozen up to 3 months. Rolled cookie dough may be frozen up to three months and baked in their frozen state for 13 minutes

Summer Peach Galette

Summer Peach Galette

In my lap, my cat purrs and rubs her head beneath my forearm as I type. Her long gray fur occasionally floats in front of my bright computer screen, and her rough tongue licks my thumb, perhaps tasting the curried chicken we ate just a few hours before.

To be honest, her attention frustrates me. I’m tired, touched-out, and eager for a little “me time” once my daughter finally goes down for the night. I push her off, but she returns. Again and again, she comes back and jumps into my lap.

We found Cricket shortly after my oldest sister died. Three years ago, this scrawny gray cat jumped into my lap for the very first time as Ryan and I sat on a park bench, mourning things we didn’t have the words to explain or understand. We named her Cricket, but her presence in our life was anything but a lucky happenstance. I needed that cat. And someone knew it. I needed to feel her rub up against me while I grieved my sister’s death, while I grappled with infertility, while I hoped and prayed our baby would be all right. She was a gift from God…and she still is.

Summer Peach Galette

Because often, once the storm passes, it’s easy to forget the people who cared and the habits you formed and the prayers you prayed. It’s easy to forget how desperately you needed that little gray cat on that hot May day. I’m busy right now, and our lives are full of love, and growth, and laughter. We are in this beautiful city, with our beautiful family, and I’m doing the things I truly love. And yet…I’m still human, and broken, and in need of the non-judging affection of a creature like Cricket. In fact, I’d argue that we all do.


How this relates to a peach galette, I don’t exactly know. But I do know that we enjoyed this end-of-summer tart on Friday night with new friends…with people I’m excited to journey life with. I do know that making this tart was the only way I could have ended a busy and full week. Slicing the peaches, crumbling the butter into the flour, and sprinkling the crust with sugar….all of it was good for my soul. Just like Cricket, who has now decided there’s bigger and better things to do in our living room.

Summer Peach Galette

Summer Peach Galette

1 disc all-butter pie dough

5-6 peaches, slightly firm, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup coconut sugar

3 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons cream

Coarse sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. In a medium bowl, gently fold sugar and flour into sliced peaches.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll disc of pie dough into a 12-inch round. Gently arrange peach slices in the middle of dough. Allow 2-3 inches of border. Gently fold edge of pie dough over the edge of peach slices. Brush crust with cream and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, until crust turns a light golden brown and the juices from the peaches are bubbling.

Back to School Essentials

As I’ve mentioned before, we live behind a school, and so although Lulu is far too young for elementary, we can’t help but feel the excitement of a fresh start. And then, of course, I have my own classes that I teach on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Classes of eager college freshmen, excited to begin their studies. There’s nothing quite as appealing as a fresh start.

The sweet folks at the Motherhood and Healthy Essentials asked me to share some of the ways I’m refreshing and re-energizing my routine this fall. I was happy to do so because it made me stop and think: what can I do to bring more peace and fulfillment into my days? It’s an important question to ask…especially when you feel too busy or overwhelmed to set aside for yourself. In fact, that’s a sign you need to answer that question even more. So here’s my list. I hope it brings you a measure of inspiration!

Outdoor time

Photo: Up in the Sycamore Photography

1. Spending time outside

The days are getting shorter but my need for sunshine isn’t diminishing. Lulu and I spend at least an hour outside each day…sometimes more. Yes, it means that we may end up with a few more scrapes or bruises, but never anything that a bandaid or a kiss from mom can’t fix. I feel like my soul breathes so much freer the rest of the day if I begin it with time outdoors.

2. Reading

As a new mom, sitting down to a book has become near impossible. It breaks my MFA heart to admit it…but I haven’t finished a novel this entire year. And so one of the ways I’m changing my routine this fall is to set aside time to read…even if only for 10 or 15 minutes. It does my soul good, and it allows Lulu time to interact with some of the books that she enjoys.


3. Baking something new

No surprise, I bake a lot. But I often end up baking recipes that I know like the back of my hand. Recipes that don’t require me to think…but simply to do. And while those recipes result in a meditative state of mind, I sometimes miss the challenge and excitement of trying something new. I rarely turn to shortbread when I get the itch to bake cookies. But I think about them often, especially when I’m craving something subtly sweet and buttery. I had so much fun mixing, cutting, and baking these cookies on Sunday afternoon. It changed up my routine…which did my body and my soul good!


4. Take time for me.

I’ll be honest, it’s really hard to pamper yourself when you have a toddler running around. Gone are the days of manicures and pedicures…gone are the days of long leisurely baths. Instead, I spoil myself in simple, easy ways. I buy a new face wash or a new shampoo. I wear lipstick just because I feel like it (and not because I have somewhere special to go.)

5. Cut back.

I’m learning to say no. I’m learning that it’s okay if I don’t blog three or four times a week. It’s okay if I don’t say yes to every social invite I receive. Balance as a new mom is hard…and I know I have a long way to go…but I think I’m getting closer. Day by day. Hour by hour.

Some of the great products I’m using can be found here...and there are over $40 worth of coupons to make that pampering or exploring a little more affordable! Go explore some of these Healthy Essentials when you have the chance!

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

September is here. I’m back at Pikes Peak Community College, teaching three English Composition courses. I’m also on call for five births (yes, I’m doing birth photography!). Needless to say, life is busy. Add in a bubbling, vivacious toddler and my days have been filling up at an ever-quickening rate. So for the time being, I’ll just be posting twice each week. If you absolutely need to see more baked goods and whole foods, you can always find me on instragram (@cakestand).

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Last week, after a beautiful day photographing three women for the Breastfeeding Project, I drove home from Denver with one goal in my mind: to make my 10-year-old nephew a birthday cake. With only a couple of hours before we were set to meet for dinner, I knew I’d have to execute a stellar baking and decorating performance if Ben’s birthday cake was going to be a reality. I needed simplicity. I needed ease. I needed delicious. And so I fell back on a classic vanilla cake with a delicious chocolate buttercream frosting. When I have ample time, I love to make a traditional french buttercream…with egg yolks and corn syrup and granulated sugar. But when I need something sweet and simple that will decorate beautifully, I turn to this recipe: an easy buttercream made with only a few ingredients: cocoa, powdered sugar, butter, and a dash of milk. In under two hours (from start to finish!) we had this cake ready for Ben’s birthday celebration. It was enjoyed by all.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

3 sticks butter, softened to almost room temperature

1 cup cocoa powder

5 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup whole milk (for an even richer frosting, use cream)

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine butter and cocoa. Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add in powdered sugar and milk (1 cup of powdered sugar, followed by 1-2 tablespoons milk). Run the mixer on low as you combine. After all milk and powdered sugar are added, stir in vanilla. Beat mixture on medium-high until light and fluffy (add more powdered sugar or more milk if needed). Frost on a completely cooled cake.