Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

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Downtown Seattle looking festive

Another Christmas has come and gone. I survived another year of relatives, parents, parents’ friends probing me about when I will reach certain life milestones like my peers. Yikes.

The Holidays can be wonderful…and stressful. Thank goodness for these Chocolate Peppermint Cookies I adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod blog to make things better. I carried a huge box in my backpack on my Seattle to Bay Area flight and went straight to a Christmas Eve party from the airport and they were a big hit!

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What you’ll need (This recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies!):

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies

Prep work (TIP: do this hours before baking!):

  • leave butter out at room temp
  • leave eggs out at room temp

I took left over candy canes from my office holiday party (I knew no one would miss them, so I put them to good use!)

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The funnest part of the recipe

  1. Crush the candies!
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F and line your cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Take the flour, baking soda, sea salt, cocoa – blend well, until it’s a light brown color.
  4. With a stand mixer, pour in your sugars and then add in butter – cream together.
  5. Add one egg, mix, add the second egg, mix until just blended.
  6. Add in peppermint and vanilla extracts.
  7. Little by little, pour in the dry flour mix. Starting and stopping the mixer to scrap the sides if needed. I did this about 6 times before it was all in. Do not over mix.
  8. Lastly mix in the chocolate chips.
  9. If the cookie dough feel a little too sticky or thin to easily hand roll into balls, then stick the dough in the fridge for 1 hour, should help firm it up.
  10. Scoop out about 1 tablespoon of dough and roll into little balls.
  11. “Dip” them into the crushed peppermint candy and place them on your sheet with about 2 inch spacing.
  12. Bake for 10-11 minutes, until centers are still soft, but candy has not melted.
  13. Remove from oven and let cool for about 3-5 minutes.
  14. Transfer to cool completely on a wire rack.
  15. Taste test and enjoy!

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Hope you all enjoyed a wonderful holiday, whether you were with friends, family, or just hiking alone in the mountains – be thankful for the gift of the present and not just the presents under the tree!

Cranberries & White Chocolate Cookie Bars (“Ruby & Pearls Bars”)

Hello! It’s Christmas Eve (how did that happen?!) and I’m whipping up some last minute edible gifts for family and friends…because quite honestly I’m a broke grad student with no time to shop or money to do so.

I just realized exactly a year ago I made Cranberry White Chocolate Walnut Cookies, I guess the tradition continues! The tart cranberry + sweet white chocolate pairing is perfection and this time it comes in bar form. 23952780785_caa95401fa_zI followed the White Chocolate Cranberry Cookie Bars recipe from WonkyWonderful. Like a cross between a brownie and a cookie, these are soft and chewy, bursting with flavorful sweetness!23870283231_ed5b04cbbc_zI could have just made last year’s recipe again, but I really wanted to try something different and I’ve never made cookie bars before! I love the idea of not having to roll dough or scoop cookie balls over and over again. What can I say- I’m a lazy baker!  23926582236_c9540e3ed8_zI’m finally on holiday break after a super-stressful Autumn quarter, so I was really looking forward to taking the time to just enjoy baking and being in the kitchen with some Pandora music. Also, since these were going to be gifts, I wanted to make sure I did not rush it and took my time to do everything carefully. I even remembered to leave the butter out to soften hours before!

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

What you need for the bars:

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (I roughly chopped them)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips

What you need for the glaze (optional):

  • 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil

In one large bowl, mix sugar, butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth and well blended.

In another smaller bowl mix: flour, baking powder, and salt together. Slowly add the dry mixture into the wet mixture, and it should start getting pretty thick with a cookie dough texture. 23325904713_013bcfa6d4_z

Add in the cranberries and white chocolate chips. 23324433624_9c16a39499_z

Spread the dough into a greased 8X8 inch square pan with a spatula. Yes, I know you see a circle cake pan…I threw away my old 8×8 pan because it was rusting and I didn’t buy a new one yet. Clearly, I’m not the most prepared baker, but at least I’m a creative problem solver! Bake for about 25-30 minutes. Mine came out perfectly with slightly crispy edges at 27 minutes. After letting it cool completely – since it’s really cold in Seattle right now, took about 1 hour. I flipped it over on wax paper and decided to pre-cut the bars BEFORE the glaze. 23324482834_552d632090_kMy boyfriend taste tested the bars and said they tasted great and didn’t see the need for the glaze. I think the glaze completes the look and doesn’t necessarily add anything in terms of taste. 23326016623_3a084e8af3_z23324562884_0ba6d7fb81_zI microwaved and stirred the chocolate with 10 second intervals until it was completely melted and smooth.

I spread out the bar pieces so the glaze would drizzle down the sides of the bars too.

23870286771_5dea68a4e8_zWith a spoon, steady hands, and no hesitation I started “drawing” diagonal lines back and forth over the bars and wax paper. 23326014463_1a73d14e6c_zAnd voila! You have lovely glazed cookie bars! 23952784295_39077ac1b0_zThey will disappear faster than Santa up the chimney I promise. 23324551214_5dfb181339_zPack these in a pastry box or throw a few in clear gift bags, tie it off with festive ribbon and there you have a cute, homemade gift. 23952779045_3509047991_zAfter this posting this blog entry, I may have to go and make a second batch…might have done a little bit too much “taste- testing”! 23326001243_b6826eab4a_z

Hope you all have warm, safe, happy holidays…

sharing good eats with good people! 

 

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Vanilla Wafter Crust

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Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving full of laughs and delicious food. I stayed in Seattle again this year and went to a Friendsgiving on Friday. Of course, while I was studying and writing papers, my breaks were recipe hunting for a good dessert to bring to the table. While I could have brought a healthy quinoa salad, I decided to go with a pumpkin dessert (again). This is my first time making flavored cheesecake! I decided to adapt this Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with a cookie crust recipe from Love From the Oven blog. Easy enough to make but just decadent enough to impress.

This recipe comes in 3 “phases” – the crust, the cheesecake, and the topping! Definitely recommend making the crust and base a day before so you don’t have to rush around the kitchen the day of. NOTE: I doubled the recipe to make about 18 muffin tin-sized cheesecakes. The original recipe was a little different due to different mold sizes.

First up: the crust! 

You will need:

  • one box of vanilla wafers or 48 gingersnap cookies (my grocery store didn’t have gingersnap cookies!)
  • 3 tablespoons of melted butter (should be Unsalted but I grabbed the wrong one in the pre-TG supermarket frenzy)

23330523595_12e8d78637_oI don’t have a food processor, but have no fear, you can do it the good old fashion way: a large ziplock bag and a rolling pin. An awesome arm workout. I did have to separate the crumbs a few times to make sure I did not have big pieces left.

23330521065_95dfb89672_oMelt the butter is a small saucepan on low heat just long enough that it’s all melted, you don’t want it to bubble. Let it cool for 5 mins. Slowly mix the butter into the wafer crumbs until there’s no dry crumb spots.
23311351986_b81221b51c_oScoop about 1 heaping tablespoon of crumbs into muffin tins (either slightly greased or with paper liners). I love more crust for more texture to balance out the richness of cheesecake but feel free to put in more or less. I loved this shot glass trick from Love From the Oven to make flat, even, tightly packed crusts. Put your crusts into the fridge for about 1 hour. 22969548589_242d5d1642_o

Phase 2: the pumpkin cheesecake! 

You will need:

  • 2 (8 oz each) packages of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs

23101607800_a822b756c7_oPut the cream cheese, sugar, pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice into a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well.
Preheat the oven for 350ºF.

Scoop the batter on top of the firm crusts, up to you how big you want the cakes to be, they don’t expand very much so however much batter you scoop in is how the big cakes will be. Bake for 25 mins. Take them out of the oven and let them cool for about 1 hour and place them in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight!

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Phase 3: the topping(s)! 

Okay this part is totally optional, those cheesecakes are ready for palette pleasure, but for presentation’s sake – I wanted to go all out with the cream (it’s Thanksgiving after all!). Whipped cream from a spray bottle melts after awhile and knowing these cakes were going to sit out on a potluck table, I wanted something that would hold shape but still be light and fluffy. I bagged some whipped topping and just pipped them right on, took less than 5 mins! 23371272136_8e5fdeb269_oI did not want to overwhelm the presentation or make it too messy to eat so I used Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Sugar mix grinder and gave 1-2 twists over each cake for a pretty crystal sugar sparkle.
Of course, go crazy creative with the toppings as you want. Use chocolate shavings, cocoa powder, toffee bits, leftover vanilla wafer crumbles, or Fall-themed sprinkles!

The results are perfect layers of sweet and crunchy, rich and smooth, and light and fluffy! 23101290180_cceba05a21_o

Oven-Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

 

Happy November readers! Here in Seattle, we are definitely feeling that autumn chill, pulling out those heavy coats, chugging hot toddies, and bouncing off the walls from leftover Halloween candy. I don’t usually get to do much for Halloween, not that I don’t like the holiday, I just usually am too lazy/busy to join in the festivities. But this year, I had some classmates who have never carved pumpkins before so we had ourselves a little carving party.

This was a great chance to keep the seeds and roast some healthy snacks! Man, have you guys ever hollowed out a pumpkin before? It’s a lot of (messy) work!  22933674832_84259c2dd1_o

The last time I got to carve a pumpkin was probably when I was like 9! That was also the last time my dad kept the seeds and roasted them. My boyfriend and I decided to carve something cute and easy: we looked up a lot of ideas on the net and settled on characters from Totoro– a very famous childhood anime movie. This is mini totoro and the soot gremlin. Aren’t they cute!

Okay – back to the cooking! Pumpkin seeds are also known as “pepitas”. They are super healthy, loaded with fiber, protein, iron and magnesium. I love tossing a handful of shelled seeds into salads, oatmeal, or quinoa. Course, they are also awesome as snacks. There’s lots of recipes online on how to roast these but I just found this one from Popsugar that has foolproof steps.

You’ll need:

  • the seeds (It’s okay if you have the stringy, gooey pumpkin insides stuck on them)
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper or whatever spices you like
  • a big bowl
  • a paper towel/towel
  • a cookie sheet
  • foil

Start off by filling up the bowl with cold water and soaking the seeds for about 15 mins. This will get most of the membrane off like magic! Drain and spread them out on a towel or paper towel until they are completely dry. I actually left mine out overnight, but maybe 4 hours is enough. Blotting with a paper towel may help too.
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When you are ready to make the seeds: preheat your oven at 350ºF and cover a cookie sheet with foil.

Toss the dried seeds with a tablespoon of olive oil or enough so that each one is lightly coated. Sprinkle salt and spices in so that they are evenly covered. I used Trader Joe’s “Everyday Seasoning” that just has tons of stuff in it from black pepper to garlic to paprika!

In about 15 minutes you get crispy, golden pumpkin seeds!  22759072040_bac8de6861_o

Let them cool and them store in an airtight container.22933656162_99695a74d6_o

Snack on and snack happy everyone!

A Sweet Thanksgiving

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Last night’s pre-Thanksgiving home made meal: Chicken with Mushroom and White Wine Sauce (Epicurious), Broccolini, Garlicky Red Mash Potatoes (Allrecipes). There was Pumpkin Creme Brulee (William-Sanoma) that followed.

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Yes the two of us ate all four of them….no shame.

A Sweet Thanksgiving

So thankful for my followers and readers! Hope you all have a warm, wonderful Turkey Day full of yummy food and good people.

I made some Delicious Pumpkin Bread last night for tonight’s festivities.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies + Maple Marshmallow Cream

2013-10-31 08.33.53Halloween is the perfect excuse to try new recipes and indulge in sweet treats! I wanted the challenge of trying something new. I also wanted to make something portable and handheld for my co-workers. And of course, it has to be delicious.

After some “Pinspiration” I stumbled across the perfect recipe: Bon Apetit’s Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Marshmallow Cream. Before this recipe, I probably had whoopie pie once and I wasn’t sure what to think of it. Was it a cookie, pie, a cake?

So the story is: WPs is a East Coast phenomenon, invented by the Amish using left over cake batter, placed as treats inside their husbands lunch pails, when they discovered the WPs they exclaimed, “Whoopie!”

 

Not sure how true this is, but it’s a cute story.

This was my first attempted at whoopie pies and I’m already excited to make more! They are like big soft cookie sandwiches with creamy sweet fillings- who wouldn’t love that?

These WPs tasted like a New England autumn: full of rich, sweet pumpkin, warm spices, and maple goodness.

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Start off by making the maple marshmallow filling (enough to lightly fill 20-25 large WPs):

  • 1- 7oz can of marshmallow creme
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) of butter (room temp)
  • 1 cup of sifted powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons of maple flavoring (I would add less if you don’t want the intense maple flavor)

1. Beat butter and sugar until smooth

2. Add the whole can of marshmallow and the maple flavoring. Beat until blended and a light tan color.

3. Leave at room temp. (I had to refrigerate this overnight because I did not have time to fill the pies that night and it was fine, I just left it out at room temp and warmed it up by messaging the piping bag with my hands.

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It was a good call to put it in a piping bag, much easier clean up and makes filling the pies a breeze, especially when I was pressed for time.

 

 

 

 

On to the pies! Here is where you mix most of your dry ingredients and all spices together.

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  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix all this together well and set aside.

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Beat the 3/4 stick of butter and 3/4 cup brown sugar together. Then add 1/2 cup of vegetable oil gradually as the better is on medium speed. Add 3 eggs, one at a time. Then add 1 15oz can of pure pumpkin (I love the Libby’s brand) and smell the goodness.
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After that’s all blended, alternate (ideally with the blender still moving) adding the dry ingredient mix and the 1/2 cup of milk. Stopping to scrap the sides occasionally. When it’s all blended and starts feeling pretty think- cover it with saran wrap and refrigerate for a hour. After the hour, line your cookie sheets with parchment paper and spray the paper with cooking spray (helps a lot for the pies to come off clean). Start dropping the batter into the size you want, I had about 3 tablespoons per pie. The do expand so make sure you give them plenty of space!

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Ew, I know the unbaked versions do not look that appealing.

It would go faster if you have two trays baking, 1 at the top third of the oven and 1 at the bottom third. 10 mins in, you switch them and finish baking for 10 more minutes. They should still be pretty soft but have a nice medium deep orange color.

Inside should be nice and moist like this and so soft that it bends before it breaks.

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This recipe was so time consuming, I had to stop at 1am and save the assembling for the next day….

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Here’s the best part sandwiching them together! And…ta-da you have a whoopie pie! 2013-10-31 08.24.53

Oozing with maple-y, marshmallow-y goodness. I was careful not to put too much filling, knowing that it was pretty sweet and people tend not to like to be overwhelmed by filling. Some recipes use a cream cheese filling but I think the marshmallow creme gives it a nice fluffy texture that is not too heavy. The pumpkin halves are also very light and soft.

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Do NOT stack them together or let them touch, the whoopie pies are so moist that “skin” of the pies tend to stick to each other and then peel off. I cut strips of wax paper and wrapped them in it for neat convenient grab-n-go.
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