AUTUMN 2013

It’s that time of year again! The time for back to school, falling leaves, awesome patterned tights paired with boots, chilly weather for scarf wearing, sweaters, but most importantly…Halloween movies galore, and PUMPKIN EVERYTHING! Clearly it is time for my favorite time of year.

And why yes, I have had multiple Pumpkin Spice Lattes since they were released a week ago 🙂

1001442_10151821695313076_881963928_nDELICIOUS. Even more delicious because this one was a surprise from one of my 8th graders right before first period. I know it’s silly, but I’m loving the fact that my students actually like me, rather than just tolerate me as the kids did during my student teaching.

ANYWAY…pumpkin! So as most of you probably know, I love everything pumpkin related this time of year, that being said. Here is a roundup of some of my favorite pumpkin recipes, and some I am excited to try! I already picked up one can of pumpkin puree, but I can see I will definitely be needing more!

Pumpkin Bread – totally a classic and a must make for every year.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Roll – definitely a win for special occasions, when you’re trying to impress someone, or just because you feel like eating a fancy roll cake (I find any of these reasons to be valid for making this delicious dessert).

Baked Pumpkin Donut Holes – if I had the time, I would make these fresh every morning and snack on them throughout the day because they are the perfect accompaniment to morning coffee/tea, the perfect small post-lunch dessert, the best afternoon pick-me-up (with coffee of course), and obviously a great dessert for ending the day. Hmm…this makes me wonder, is this worth getting up at 5:00am so I can have some to bring with me to work? Quite possibly yes. And yes, I know, I have a pumpkin problem.

Some other pumpkin recipes from around the blog world that I can’t wait to try…

Pumpkin Oat Loaf – from Young Married Chic. A breakfast bread that sounds like it would be awesome slathered in peanut butter (really, is there any other way to put peanut butter on things?) It sounds like it’s almost baked pumpkin spice oatmeal in loaf form. So basically an awesome on-the-go breakfast.

Pumpkin Gingerbread – also from Young Married Chic (it’s slightly possible that Kris actually loves pumpkin things more than I do!) But yes, this pumpkin gingerbread sounds like an amazing combo of all things autumn/winter so I can’t wait to try it – maybe for Thanksgiving as a transition to winter.

Pumpkin Spice Caramel Corn (aka Monster Mash) – and one more from Young Married Chic! This caramel corn basically sounds like Halloween in a bag and therefore I think it’s awesome. Definitely will be contemplating bringing bags of this to school for my kiddos during Halloween. Or you know, just making for me to eat every day during the month of October. Don’t judge.

Pumpkin Cake Pops – from YumSugar. Pretty sure the title speaks for itself. Pumpkin + Cake Pops. Clearly no additional words are needed.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls – from Smitten Kitchen. I’m not sure why I’ve never made these before. I pinned the recipe a while back and just found it but I can’t wait to make them! I mean come on, pumpkin. cinnamon. rolls. Yeasty, doughy, sweet deliciousness with the magic that is pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice. PLUS A CREAM CHEESE GLAZE. Yes, these must be made asap this weekend.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Pancakes – from HealthyFoodforLiving. Pumpkin Spice Latte Pancakes? The question is not why, but rather why not?!

I can’t wait to get started making some of my go-to pumpkin favorites and trying out some of these other recipes!

What are your favorite pumpkin recipes?

Happy Start of Autumn!

xx

-C

 

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Oatmeal-Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

I am a chocolate-peanut butter combo kind of girl. If you’ve ever looked at my Pinterest board – Desserts I will be making in the near future – you know that I love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, since like 80% of the recipes on the board are titled chocolate-peanut butter blah blah. My favorite candy is a Reese’s cup, my favorite snack is a spoon of Skippy Chunky Peanut Butter with a spoon of Nutella or instead of Nutella, a few chocolate chips, and my favorite desserts always include peanut butter and chocolate. It’s just a fact. Peanut Butter and Chocolate. The best combination since PB&J. But I do try to branch out every now and then and try non-chocolate-peanut butter treats. So right now, since my mom is on a no-chocolate kick for health reasons, I’ve been looking for delicious chocolate-free baked goods and desserts. Which is actually more difficult than you might think. (If you have any recommendations, I will gladly take them! My mom has a huge sweet tooth so it’s been quite difficult for her to function without desserts, as I’m sure you can all imagine.)

So I started perusing my favorite food blogs in search of desserts/baked goods that involved oatmeal (since I have a huge bag of quick cooking steel cut oats right now), and possibly peanut butter, because we all know peanut butter makes everything delicious. I searched for a while and then came across the magnificent – Joy the Baker’s Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies with Creamy Peanut Butter Filling! I was sold. I like to think of these as a nutter butter on crack.

IMAG0267Oatmeal cookies cooled and ready for frosting!

IMAG0268I like chunky peanut butter so it’s chunky yet creamy peanut butter frosting

IMAG0269frost, sandwich, stack, repeatIMAG0271

Look at that peanut butter frosting oozing out the sides, you know you want one

IMAG0270

Sandwiched and ready to eat!

Oatmeal-Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

Adapted from Joy the Baker

Cookies:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup steel cut oats (quick-cooking – I like Bob’s – these add a nice crunch)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Peanut Butter Frosting:
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
3 – 4 tablespoons milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Cream together the butter and sugar in a stand mixer. Add the egg and vanilla extract. Beat until combined. In a separate bowl, throughly combine the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add this mixture to the wet mixture, until fully incorporated.

Using a teaspoon (yes, a teaspoon, we want these cookies small) – scoop out some of the cookie dough and roll into a ball using your hand. Place onto your baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart or so. (You may want to line your baking sheet with parchment or a silpat – I was out of parchment so I did one batch on silpat and one without – they came up fine, only one cookie broke.) Keep in mind these are sandwich cookies so we need an even amount of cookies. (Though if you happen to end up with an odd number of cookies I definitely won’t judge if you pop that one into your mouth while frosting the rest.)

Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 – 12 minutes (this will vary depending on your oven) or until just set. 10 minutes was actually the perfect amount for me. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the baking sheet.

While those cool, let’s make frosting!

I wouldn’t say I abuse my KitchenAid Stand Mixer, I would say that I’m getting my money’s worth out of it – lol. SO, in a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment – blend together the peanut butter, butter, powdered sugar, and milk. Start by adding just 2 tablespoons of milk, and then adding more as necessary. If you add too much milk, no worries, just add a spoon more of peanut butter and a few spoons more of powdered sugar. Ta da – instafix! You want the frosting thick enough to hold its shape but still thin enough that it’s spreadable. Play around with consistency and see what you like.

When the cookies are completed cooled, get your frosting, stack your cookies, stream your favorite show you’ve been marathoning (oh wait, that might just be a step for me – I’ve been streaming Once Upon A Time and Homeland every time I cook lately), and get to frosting and sandwiching!

Cookie, frosting (and when I say frosting, I mean slather it on – no one likes a cookie with minimal frosting), another cookie, smoosh together (yea, I said smoosh), and stack. Or put in your mouth.

Joy recommends storing these in the fridge in an airtight container, which I have to say was the best advice ever. It gives the flavors a chance to combine if you leave them overnight, and it also keeps the frosting firm so it’s not goozing all over the place when you bite into the cookie. It also slows people down from eating all of the cookies at once. Not that I do that kind of thing.

Wow, just re-read this and there are quite a few words of questionable origin. But that’s just what these cookies do, people. They’re so awesome that you want to make up new words to describe them.

Personally, I think these would be awesome dipped in chocolate, but I guess that would be kind of overkill, and it kind of defeats the purpose of a chocolate-free dessert for my mom. BUT…it is something to file away for an attempt at a later date.

Quick update on me: I’m taking the CSET Math subtest II (my last one!) later this week so you will either hear from me in a few days crying and drowning my sorrows in cookies, or happy and celebrating by making tasty treats. Either way, more recipes soon, but I’ll be taking a break for a few days to focus on studying and work.

Wish me luck!

xx

-C

Mint Chocolate Chip Brownies

It’s the time of year when all the supermarkets start putting out all their fun holiday baking extras – flavored extracts, sprinkles, green and red jimmies, nonpareils, cookie cutters in reindeer and snowman shapes, etc. So the other day, I think it might have been last Tuesday before Thanksgiving…but who knows, I was in Safeway, standing in line to purchase my groceries when what should be on display right by the checkout line…a bag of mint and chocolate chips (oh yes it is a mix of mint green and dark chocolate chips) and a Baker’s unsweetened cocoa bar! AND they were both on sale. Obviously there was no way I could resist.

Just about one week later…ENTER MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP BROWNIES! (or if we’re being seasonal, I guess I could call them Peppermint Brownies…but they lack the red/white of peppermint so I’m sticking with mint chocolate chip brownies).

School is done for the semester and now I can embark on my favorite holiday activity – making desserts galore! While listening to Christmas music of course. For my Christmas playlist on Spotify, see here. Click shuffle. Start baking. :]

Anyway, brownies! So taking the Unbelievably Delicious Brownies recipe and altering it a bit, we get minty-chocolatey-deliciousness. Should that actually be chocolatey-minty-deliciousness? I’ve never been good with that adjective ordering thing.

A stick of butter, plus extras, a bunch of sugar, and the semi-hidden unsweetened cocoa squares in my pseudo-bain-marie. Okay, fine it’s just a glass bowl precariously balanced on a pot of simmering water. I make do, okay?

Mmm…grainy-sugar-butter-chocolate-mixture.

 

 

Out of the oven! You can sort of see the green chips poking through.

 

 

Mmm…look at that crunchy top, and beneath is the most dense, chewy, amazing brownie EVER.

 

 

You know you would eat that in one bite. Don’t lie. It’s not like I ate multiple bites at midnight when these brownies came out of the oven….no, I would never do anything like that.

Mint Chocolate Chip Brownies

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Unbelievable Delicious Brownies

1 1/4 sticks salted butter
1 1/4 cups granulated white sugar
3 squares of Baker’s Chocolate
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 large eggs, cold
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 16oz bag Nestle mint and dark chocolate morsels

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with butter. (Quick tip: unwrap the top of the butter stick you are about to use, and rub that all over the pan before using the butter in your recipe.)

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa squares, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water (if you have a bain-marie, now is the time to use it. If not, just make sure the bowl does not sink into the pot, you just want it to sit on top of it. Warning, it will get VERY HOT. Handle with care. Also, you could do this in the microwave as well). Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is gritty but entirely incorporated. Carefully remove the bowl from the hot water and set aside until the mixture is warm, not hot. Since I wanted to use my KitchenAid Stand Mixer, I poured the mixture into the KitchenAid bowl and popped it in the fridge for about 5 – 7 minutes to let it cool. It is important to let it cool so that your eggs do not cook when you add them.

Stir in the vanilla and peppermint extract. Add the eggs, one at a time if mixing by hand, if using a mixer, you may add them all at once. Mix until combined. Once everything is incorporated, begin to mix in the flour until you have a nice smooth, chocolate batter. Pour in your bag of dark chocolate and mint morsels. Mix until combined. Pour the batter into your prepared dish.

Bake 25 – 30 minutes, or until a jiggle of the dish shows that it is mostly set, and a toothpick in the middle returns with a slight bit of moist batter. I would recommend rotating about halfway through the baking process. Ovens can be such tricksome things.

Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a rack.

Or burn your mouth as you insist on taking a bite even though it’s only been out of the oven for 5 mins. It’s not like I do these things, I’m just warning you. You know how it is. I’m just looking out for you.

Cut & enjoy! Or eat right out of the pan. I won’t judge.

The base of these brownies is seriously the best brownies I’ve ever had. They don’t need frosting or mix-ins. BUT those kinds of things only make them even more amazing. Do try and let me know what mix-ins are your favorite for the holidays (and whenever).

Alright, enough listening to me ramble, go get to baking and Christmas-music-listening!

Happy Start of Holiday Baking!

xx

-C

Snickerdoodle Blondies

Snickerdoodles. Who names a cookie a snickerdoodle? Every time I hear snickerdoodle I ask that. I didn’t even realize such a cookie existed until I started working at Starbucks when I was in high school – I remember the shocked faces when I asked “What’s a snickerdoodle?” Once it was explained, I went through the following thought process…

Me: A cinnamon-sugar cookie, hmm, sounds like it’ll be good – I like cinnamon-sugar toast a whole lot, so throw in a cookie, that must be amazing!

Plus, people raved about Snickerdoodles so I figured they must be pretty good. Sigh. High expectations are never a good thing for food. I was extremely let down when I did finally try one. Granted, these were Snickerdoodles from a Starbucks bakery, but in later years I tried Snickerdoodles from legitimate bakeries and always ended up let down. Just what is the appeal of these cookies? I don’t see it!! I love the combination of cinnamon and sugar and I love cookies, so why is it that these cookies are such a GIANT LETDOWN?? It’s something that’s bothered me for years.

Anyway…recently I had an overwhelming craving for something with cinnamon and sugar. I wasn’t in a chocolate mood but I wanted some kind of doughy, sweet, chewy, cinnamon-y/sugar-y dessert treat (and no, I was not craving Chai Spiced Cinnamon Rolls). And that’s when I discovered these…SNICKERDOODLE BLONDIES. Blondies are amazing pretty much always, so subtract chocolate and add in cinnamon and sugar. I think we still have a winner! So I embarked on a mission to make a Snickerdoodle dessert that wasn’t a giant disappointment. And I succeeded!

Cinnamon Sugar Goodness. That’s what we have here.

Do you see those little sweet crystals and that crunchy top?

Mmm…

I don’t know if you can see it, but these are dense little suckers that are reminiscent of dense, moist chocolate brownies, but obviously minus the chocolate. AND they have a crunchy sugary top, which I don’t know, just makes them an awesome balance of everything.

Snickerdoodle Blondies (Actually I just want to call them Cinnamon Sugar Blondies because I still don’t like the name Snickerdoodle, but that’s me)
Recipe by me :]

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar (aka white sugar)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour

Topping
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar (white sugar)
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8×8 inch glass baking dish (or you can spray it with Pam or whatever you have; I just prefer to take the stick of butter I plan to use in the recipe, and quickly just run it across all the sides and the bottom of the dish before I soften the stick in the microwave).

If your butter is already room temperature, that’s great. If not, just pop it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds or until it’s soft. In a stand mixer, cream your butter and sugar. Add in the vanilla extract and egg. Mix until combined. Then add the flour and salt. Mix until everything is thoroughly combined. The dough should be very very thick.

Scoop (you won’t be able to pour due to how thick the dough is) your dough into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly.

In a small bowl, combine your 2 Tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Using either a sifter or a small slotted spoon, sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the dough. If you do not have a sifter (and are too lazy to find a slotted spoon as I was), just carefully sprinkle the mixture over the dough, taking care not to pour too much in one spot. Pat the cinnamon-sugar topping gently into the top of the dough.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Because oven temperatures vary, I would recommend checking after 15 minutes and pricking with a toothpick. If the toothpick comes out clean, remove from the oven. These should seem slightly undercooked when you pull them out.

Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Slice into small bite-sized bars. Again, these should seem like super most moist, dense brownies, but you know, without the chocolate. A nice crunchy sugary top, with a soft, dense, chewy inside.

Enjoy!

FINALLY, a Snickerdoodle dessert I can get along with. I now understand the appeal of Snickerdoodles! No, actually I still don’t. But I do understand the appeal of these Snickerdoodle blondies. Try them!

Super quick and easy. And a great dessert for when I’m not wanting chocolate (but really how often does that happen?). I think these will make a great addition to tea time or to put out with appetizers during your holiday gatherings :]

Happy Wednesday and the start of the 2 week countdown to Thanksgiving! My menu planning will be coming soon!

xx

-C