2013 Holiday Cookie Line Up #1: Molasses Spice Cookies

I actually had time to spare on Thanksgiving before departure to the food fest. So what’s a foodie gal going to do but peruse recipes?

These Molasses Spice Cookies called to me during my perusal. I tried to ignore the call. I really didn’t need to make a mess in the kitchen again.

Molasses Spice Cookies

Molasses Spice Cookies

I re-read the ingredient list. Yep, I had all the ingredients on hand.

I glanced at the clock. Yep, I had enough time.

I asked myself if I really wanted to mess up the kitchen again. Nope, but I decided to make these anyway. The lure of baking won.

And oh-my-gosh, I’m so glad I made these. So was everyone else, too, for the cookies didn’t last long. Definite keeper of a recipe.

Soft and chewy on the inside, almost fudgy-like. Crispy on the outside. A crackled surface with glitz from the sugar coating. Spicy with a hint of kick from the bit of pepper added to the ingredients. Deep molasses flavor.

Yep, so glad I made these. They earned the honor of first spot on the annual Holiday Cookie Line Up (see 2012 and 2011 if you want more recipes for holiday cookies).

Molasses Spice Cookies

Molasses Spice Cookies

Molasses Spice Cookies

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Yield: 24 cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 12 tbsp. ( 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup molasses, light or dark
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (for rolling dough balls in)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, spices, salt, and pepper until thoroughly combined.
  3. Using a mixer at medium-high speed, beat butter with brown and granulated sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Reduce speed to medium-low and add egg yolk and vanilla; increase speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 20 seconds.
  5. Reduce speed to medium-low and add molasses; beat until fully incorporated, about 20 seconds, scraping bottom and sides of bowls with rubber spatula at least once.
  6. Reduce speed to lowest setting and add flour; mix until just incorporated, about 30 seconds. Give dough a final stir with rubber spatula to mix in any pockets of flour.
  7. Place 1/2 cup granulated sugar into a small bowl for rolling the dough balls in. Scoop heaping tablespoons of the soft dough and roll into 1 1/2-inch balls between palms of hands. Drop balls into sugar and completely coat, then place onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 11 minutes until cookies are browned, puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft. Don’t fret if the cookies look raw between the cracks and seem underdone.

Note: I refrigerated my dough balls while I cleaned up the kitchen, which hardened them a bit. I think had I rolled them in sugar first that more sugar would have adhered to them. When they came out of the oven, they seemed a bit sparse on the sugar coating, so I simply sprinkled a bit more on top right as they came out of the oven. 

SOURCE: Cooking.com via America’s Test Kitchen (is it any wonder these are so delicious considering they come from the folks at ATK!)

What’s Cooking in My Kitchen (cakes, cookies, cupcakes, mini pies, and ice cream)

With potlucks, work luncheons, and Thanksgiving on the horizon, I thought I had best get busy baking up some goodies ahead of time, most of them stocked in the freezer.

Sweet and Salty Butterscotch Pecan Cookies

Sweet and Salty Butterscotch Pecan Cookies

I have Sweet and Salty Butterscotch Pecan cookie dough in the freezer, ready for baking. These cookies receive the most rave reactions every time I share them.

Pecan Tassies

Pecan Tassies (mini pecan pies)

Pecan Tassies, bite-sized pecan pies, will grace a potluck at the gym. These freeze well in an airtight container, but that means I can easily sneak a tassie or two each night. I hope they last until the potluck later this week!! By the way, this time I added about 5 chocolate chips to the bottom of each crust before adding the filling. Extra yum!

Pumpkin Buttermilk Pound Cake

Pumpkin Buttermilk Pound Cake with Caramel Icing

A scrumptious Pumpkin Buttermilk Pound Cake with Caramel Icing, sans icing but tightly enveloped in plastic wrap and housed in the freezer, awaits Thanksgiving festivities, returning for a repeat performance after its highly successful debut last year.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

I baked Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes recently, falling in love with their espresso and pumpkin combo. Truth be told, it’s the frosting that stole my heart. I knew these would grace the table at the next salad club lunch at work, taking place this week.

Although these aren’t stocked in the freezer, I just have to share about these Apple Fritters I made recently for a book club meeting. Oh my goodness, this recipe makes the heavens sing. Check out Nicole’s post at Galley Gourmet for pics and recipe. I modified her recipe slightly, using grated apples rather than diced. I made it both ways, actually, and prefer the grated version. These are best eaten shortly after frying.

Finally, I tried my hand yet again at caramels, only to add another tale to my list of caramel woes. However, this time the caramels almost set properly. They are a bit too soft and every time I cut them, they morph back into one large blob after a few minutes. Sigh…

Since the Apple Cider Caramels still tasted yummy despite their blobby status, I decided to give the Browned Butter Caramel Stuffed Cookies a try and rescue the caramel. Failure. Sort of. I must have made the cookie balls too small and/or the caramel pieces too big; the caramel simply oozed out the bottoms of the cookies. Bummer because the browned butter cookies bake up outta-this-world-crazy-divinely-delicious and the apple cider caramel pairs perfectly with it.

As I held the tray of ruined cookies in my hand, about to toss them into the trash bin, I had a rescue idea flash into my brain: crumble the cookies and toss them into a batch of vanilla ice cream. So I did. Truthfully, I think it’s just a so-so combo, but my hubby loves it.

Vanilla Caramel Cookie Ice Cream

Vanilla Caramel Cookie Ice Cream

I tried another vanilla ice cream recipe for this, though, that hubby claims is better than his beloved Hagen Daaz. At Galley Gourmet, Nicole used the French Vanilla Ice Cream from David Liebovitz’s book The Perfect Scoop, but she modified it by adding some corn syrup and vodka. It certainly does create a soft, creamy, rich, and easy-to-scoop ice cream.

Oh, and if you ever have a ruined cake, you can try a trifle for a rescue mission. I had to do that with a burnt chocolate bundt cake a couple years ago, but I successfully turned that disaster into Chocolate Berry Trifles. I got the idea from Michelle at Brown-Eyed Baker and her carrot cake disaster rescue: Carrot Cake Trifle.

Chocolate Berry Trifle

Chocolate Berry Trifle

With all this baking, I can hardly wait for Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite of the holidays because it’s all about family, friends, and food. And I look forward to making Turkey Tetrazzini again from the broth I’ll make from the leftover carcass and all the meat I’ll get from those bones. It ranks as one of the most delicious savory recipes, I think, to come out of my oven.

Turkey Tetrazzini

Turkey Tetrazzini

What’s your favorite food at Thanksgiving? Try asking that at the dinner table. Not one person said turkey the year someone posed that question! My favorite: my mom’s sauerkraut. Or maybe Ladera’s stuffing.

Okay, only 11 more days until Turkey Day!! Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday filled with gratitude.

Chicken Pot Pies

I roasted a chicken the other night, which always leaves us with leftovers, so I decided to make chicken pot pies and realized I hadn’t shared a recipe for those yet. I make them about once a year because the recipe makes six pies, which carries us through the chilly season with only two of us to feed.

Chicken Pot Pies

Chicken Pot Pies

The chicken pot pies at some of the chain restaurants used to be my staple order until I began making my own. Nothing beats the flavor of homemade chicken pot pies, though, so no more mass-produced chain restaurant pies for me.

Chicken Pot Pies

Chicken Pot Pies

These homemade pies do take a bit of work but not excessively so. You can certainly cut corners by purchasing a rotisserie chicken and precut and/or frozen veggies. However, don’t skimp corners on the crust. This crust contains tangy cream cheese and is spiced up with some pepper. Fantastic flavor. So easy to work with, too: not too sticky and you can handle it without having to first refrigerate it.

Chicken Pot Pies

Chicken Pot Pies with a cream cheese crust

The first time I made these, I pressed the dough on the rims of the bowls to make sure it would stick. Bad idea. I guess I pressed so hard that during baking the sides just slipped off! Looked like the pot pies decided to drop their skirts ;  ) I’ve since learned, thanks to Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa cooking show, to brush both sides of the dough with an egg wash. The inside brushing helps the dough adhere to the bowl while the outside wash gives a sheen to the cooked crust. Thank you, Ina, for that handy dandy tip.

Chicken Pot Pies

Chicken Pot Pies loaded with chicken and veggies

Once cooked, these freeze beautifully. Just double wrap snugly in plastic wrap followed by an aluminum foil wrap, and you can then bake them straight from the freezer. Love the ease of that.

Now, if making entire chicken pot pies doesn’t appeal to you, the folks at Cooks Illustrated have created a casserole version that tastes equally yummy and is easier than making pot pies.

Chicken Pot Pies

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INGREDIENTS

FIlling

  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and diced into small chunks
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced small
  • 1 cup celery, diced small (not part of original recipe)
  • 1 cup carrots, diced small (or use frozen carrots)
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper

Sauce

  • 8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • dash hot sauce
  • salt and pepper

Crust

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 16 tbsp. (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter
  • 10 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • 1 large egg

DIRECTIONS

  1. To make filling: Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and potato to pan; saute for 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, bell pepper, celery, carrots (if using raw) and mushrooms; cook for about 15 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
  3. When veggies finish cooking, add cooked and shredded chicken along with frozen peas (and carrots if using frozen carrots). Stir in red pepper flakes as well as season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. To make sauce: Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until smooth (mine lumped up into a big ball).
  5. Add broth about 1/4 cup at a time, whisking it into the flour mixture. Continue cooking over medium heat until it thickens into a creamy sauce. If using heavy cream, mix that in now. Add hot sauce as well as salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Pour cream sauce over chicken and veggies; stir to combine.
  7. Spoon the filling into 6-8 individual oven-safe ramekins (mine are 4 1/2 inches in diameter).
  8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F at this point.
  9. To make crust: Place flour in bowl of food processor along with salt and pepper. Pulse briefly to mix.
  10. Cut cold butter into 16 pieces and add to food processor; pulse until flour and butter are crumbly.
  11. Add cream cheese; continue to pulse until dough forms a ball. Transfer dough to a lightly-floured work surface. Use a floured rolling pin to roll dough into a rough rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Cut dough in half lengthwise, then into thirds in the other direction, making six squares (or if you have 8 pies, cut accordingly). If squares are too small to fit over bowls, you can roll each one separately to enlarge them to needed size.
  12. Beat egg with a whisk, then brush dough with the egg. Place brushed side down over bowls, and gently press sides until they adhere to bowl. Now brush egg over top side of dough.
  13. Place pies on a foil-covered baking sheet (both for ease of transfer as well as any overflow of filling). Cut several slits into pie tops. Place pies into oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown (if your crusts are on the thick side, you may need to bake a bit longer).
  14. Baked and cooled pies can be frozen. Wrap snugly in plastic wrap followed by an aluminum foil wrap. Either thaw frozen pies in refrigerator on the day you intend to eat them, then reheat in 350 degree F oven for 30-40 minutes. Alternatively, pies can be reheated straight from freezer at 400 degrees F for 45-60 minutes.

SOURCE: adapted from Annie’s Eats via Ezra Pound Cake via the cookbook The Pastry Queen

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

Pardon my blogging hiatus. Lots of life interferences. First, I got buried under a pile of English essays to correct, promptly followed by a nasty cold that stressed me out because I needed to get ready for a trip to Cabo San Lucas for my brother’s wedding. Thankfully the cold eased up and we had a blast celebrating in Cabo. Upon my return, the cold monster reared its vicious phlegm again! Still dealing with that two weeks later as well as a persistent cough. And teaching all the while. With another stack of essays to arrive tomorrow.

Suffice it to say, my motivation has been stymied by work, fun in the sun, and illness.

In the meantime, I’ve had several new subscribers to the blog, which totally blows my mind considering I haven’t posted in several weeks. How did that happen? Welcome all! And I hope you find many recipes to enjoy from the site.

Despite all this craziness, I have managed to find my way into the kitchen, with these Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes stealing the show. Although I’ve never ordered a Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte, you can certainly taste the espresso flavor in this cupcake along with the pumpkin. Heck, with 4 1/2 teaspoons of espresso in the batter, you bet you can taste that strong coffee flavor! I think I might actually dial it down to 4 teaspoons next time, and I think I will also omit brushing liquid coffee on after they bake.

I accidentally put in 1 cup rather than 3/4 cup of pumpkin. Luckily, they baked up just fine. Ultra moist due to the pumpkin, actually.

But the true star? The whipped cream and cream cheese frosting. Oh. My. Goodness. I literally ate the leftover frosting with a spoon right outta the bowl. So freakin’ delightfully light and fluffy and just plain ol’ scrumptious. The recipe makes loads of frosting. If you pile it on high, you’ll use it up. If you prefer less frosting, I suggest cutting the frosting recipe in half.

Final word of advice on these: get them outta the house ASAP!!!! Their addictive quality makes them ultra dangerous to have around. Plus, it’s fun to share.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

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INGREDIENTS

Cupcakes

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 1/2 tsp. espresso powder (creates a very strong flavor, so I’m going to use 4 tsp. next time)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • pinch of cloves
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup brewed coffee, for brushing the tops after baking (I’m going to omit this step next time because the espresso in the batter creates a very strong flavor)

Frosting

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Garnish Options

  • chocolate sprinkles, cinnamon, caramel sauce, chocolate shavings…

DIRECTIONS

  1. To make cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
  3. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to blend pumpkin, both sugars, and the vegetable oil until completely combined.
  4. Blend in eggs one at a time.
  5. Add the flour in two batches, folding in with a rubber spatula until no flour pockets remain.
  6. Divide the batter between the baking cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 18-22 minutes. Allow to cool in pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to wire cooling rack.
  7. While cupcakes are still warm, use a thin skewer or the prongs on corn cob holders to poke holes into the cupcakes, then brush tops with the brewed coffee. Let each coat soak in before applying the next. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting them. (Since espresso creates a strong enough flavor, I’m going to omit the brushing of coffee next time I make these.)
  8. To make frosting: In a large bowl, use a mixer on medium speed and with whisk attachment to beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract; beat until smooth and completely combined, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the heavy cream, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, then increase speed to medium-high and whip until stiff peaks form.
  9. Using a piping bag and an open or closed star tip, pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes. Sprinkle with garnishes if desired. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. (Check out this blog post at Niner Bakes to learn about various piping tips.)

SOURCE: Brown-Eyed Baker, who adapted cupcakes from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures and frosting from allrecipes.com

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Quick and easy Chicken Enchilada Soup

Greetings blog readers! I have missed writing posts this past week, but daily life got a bit hectic. I had two weeks of 4:00 a.m. wake ups in order to finish grading my students’ first round of essays, several meetings and workshops after my teaching day, and the nerve-wracking Back to School Night in which I inform parents about my curriculum. I tell ya, my body doesn’t respond well when I have too many late nights. Anyhow, all that craziness prevented me from having energy to share some of my kitchen escapades. Today is Saturday, though, and I got a long night of sleep and feel refreshed and ready to share.

As the weather begins to slightly chill here in Southern California (although today we still have temps in the low 80’s!), I thought I’d share a belly-warming soup that mimics the flavors of enchilada. I actually made this a couple of weeks ago as the sun was still blasting us with its heat, but I couldn’t resist testing this after I saw the recipe. I love enchiladas and I love soup. How perfect to combine the two!

The original recipe calls for cooking the soup in the crock pot and using uncooked bone-on chicken thighs. I’m sure the use of thighs provides tons of flavor to the soup. However, I used the shortcut of some shredded chicken I had in the freezer. I also skipped the sauteing onions and jalapenos; instead, I just blended those with a few other ingredients, similar to the recipe I use for enchilada sauce.  Even with my shortcuts, this soup stunned our taste buds. One of these days I’ll actually  follow the recipe and I’m sure the original will taste even better than my adapted quick version.

For now, though, if you want a quick and tasty soup, this one’s in the winner’s circle at our home.

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Chicken Enchilada Soup

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 1 large jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles, undrained
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 (15-ounce) can yellow corn, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
  • 2 cups cooked and chopped chicken
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • canola oil, enough to fill a small skillet 1/2-inch high
  • garnish options: sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, sliced green onion, chopped cilantro

DIRECTIONS

  1. In the bowl of a food processor or in a blender, purée the onion, jalapeno, garlic, chili powder, cumin, sugar, oregano, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and green chiles. Transfer to a large stock pot.
  2. Add chicken stock, corn, black beans, and chicken to the pot. Heat over medium heat until ingredients are heated through.
  3. While soup warms up, prepare tortilla strips. Stack the tortillas and slice into 1/4-inch strips, then slice the larger strips into halves. Heat oil in a small cast-iron skillet to 350 degrees F (or until very hot so when the tip of a wooden spoon is inserted into oil, the oil will bubble around the spoon). Add a handful of tortilla strips and fry until golden and crispy, 1-2 minutes, separating with tongs so they don’t stick together. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate or baking sheet and immediately season with kosher salt.
  4. When ready to serve soup, garnish with tortilla strips. Additionally, you can garnish with sour cream and cheddar cheese and green onions or cilantro.

SOURCE: adapted from The Kitchn

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Chocolate Bundt Cake

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

My friend Sara of My Imperfect Kitchen, who I met at Camp Blogaway, asked me to guest post on her blog. I absolutely love Sara’s enthusiastic approach to life. Not only could I see this when I met her in person, but her blog posts ooze excitement and energy and a zest for life. Of course, I happily agreed to guest post for her.

She asked me to share one of my favorite recipes. Now that just left the choices too wide open for me! I have so many favorites. My mind whirled for days, but it kept returning to chocolate–chocolate cupcakes with chocolate fudge frosting in particular, a recipe shared with me by my husband’s stepmom. However, I didn’t want to write about something I’d already posted on my blog.

But chocolate thoughts kept saturating my brain. Then I had the opportunity to make dessert for a summer visit, so I made this chocolate bundt cake I had bookmarked to bake. Perfect choice for both the visit and to share with Sara’s readers. So my dear readers, if you want to find the recipe, which is well worth the baking, head on over to Sara’s blog.