Pumpkin Molasses Pumpkin Chip Cookies

Well, I’m 23 years old and just experienced my first snow day. Yes I’m from California, and cannot wait to go back, but my grad school experience up here in Seattle is definitely giving me a taste of what winter would be like if I lived in a place with seasons. I woke up this morning to a few inches of snow blanketing the ground, and everything looked pristine and sparkling white. It was quite beautiful. I walked down the street to a park and saw lots of families sledding and building snowmen and enjoying their day off of school/work. Here’s a little taste of the winter wonderland that is Seattle right now!

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Anyway, onto the cookies! I actually made these last year, when there were sales on pumpkin-related items after Thanksgiving, but haven’t gotten around to posting it till now. I got pumpkin chips for half off at QFC in the clearance section, and was inspired to make cookies! So I looked up some cookie recipes, and found this one at My Baking Addiction, increased the spices and added the chips, and these cookies were born! Sorry for the blurry pictures, I took them in low light and didn’t really look at them before the cookies were demolished, but the cookies were wonderful! The pumpkin and molasses keep this cookies soft and chewy, and the pumpkin chips at little bursts of melty pumpkin spice sweetness. Perfect for a snowy day like today, but alas, I used up the chips long ago. Perhaps I’ll just have to make something else. But in any case, here’s the recipe!

Pumpkin Molasses Pumpkin Chip Cookies

adapted from My Baking Addiction

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cloves

1 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup molasses (not blackstrap)

2/3 cup pumpkin puree

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup pumpkin spice chips

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.

In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter, then beat in the molasses, pumpkin, egg, and vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until well combined.

Use a small cookie scoop, or scoop about 1 tbsp balls of cookie dough onto the baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just set. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before removing from the baking sheets. Enjoy!

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The Best Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

Happy New Year everyone! It’s been a couple months since my last post, but as one of my classmates put it, “grad school has no chill.” I just got back to a freezing cold Seattle after two weeks of basking in warm, sunny California weather. During my winter break, I had some fun baking projects with my sister, one of which was making two birthday cakes for one of my mom’s friends. We made a chocolate layer cake and a gingerbread bundt cake, and both were amazing! This is the first chocolate cake I’ve ever made that I actually thoroughly enjoyed. It was wonderfully moist, rich, and brimming with chocolate. I used the cake recipe from The Stay at Home Chef , but I made a few adjustments, including reducing the sugar and replacing the warm water with hot coffee, since I’ve been told time and time again that coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate. Despite the large amount of coffee, you can’t taste it, so if you’re not a coffee person (like me), don’t worry!

We also ran into the problem of not having enough 9 inch cake pans. Instead, we used 2 9-inch springform pans and one 9 inch tart pan. The tart pan was shallower and had a wavy edge, but I just made sure to grease and flour it, and the cake slid right out! I was worried about the wavy edges, but we just covered it with frosting 🙂 I tried to divide the batter equally between the three pans, but one of my springform pan layers turned out taller, so we just cut the top off. This also meant we got to taste-test, which made us even more excited for the final product. Moral of the story, don’t be afraid to get creative with your pans, as long as they have the same diameter!

For the frosting, I used a chocolate ganache recipe, waited for it to chill, then whipped it into oblivion, which yielded a wonderfully thick, chocolate-y ganache frosting. You can use whatever frosting you’d like, but this was just the one I chose. My sister whipped up some white buttercream icing for decoration, but you can decorate however you please! This cake was a huge hit at our family friend’s gathering, and I was incredibly pleased with how this cake turned out. Here’s the recipe for the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made!

The Best Chocolate Cake

adapted from The Stay At Home Chef and Food Network

Ingredients

Cake:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (natural, not Dutch-processed)

1 tbsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 3/4 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 1/2 cups hot freshly brewed coffee

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

Frosting:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

16 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chips (we used 4 oz chopped semisweet chocolate and 12 oz bittersweet chocolate chips)

Directions

Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour 3 9-inch round pans.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt, using a fork or whisk. Make sure to break up any large clumps of cocoa powder.

In the bowl of stand mixer or by hand in a large bowl, beat together the sugar, oil, coffee, and vanilla until smooth. Beat in the eggs. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and beat until smooth.

Divide the batter evenly between the three pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before inverting. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Ganache frosting:

This can be done in advance, since it takes a while for the ganache to cool.

In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave the heavy cream on high for 3-4 minutes, until bubbles start to form at the edges, but the cream is not boiling. Add the chocolate and stir continuously as the chocolate melts, until it become smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature (we left it for 2 hours), then whip with a stand mixer until it reaches a spreadable consistency. If it’s still dripping off the beaters, whip it some more until it doesn’t, since you don’t want your frosting running off the cake.

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a plate or cake stand. Spread the ganache frosting over the top, then add the second layer. Spread another layer of ganache frosting over the top of the second layer, then add the third layer. Spread the remainder of the frosting over the top and sides of the cake, then smooth it over. Decorate as you desire. Enjoy!

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Roasted Fall Vegetable and Lentil Soup

Happy Sunday everyone! I’m taking a study break, and I wanted to share a recipe for a soup I made earlier this week that turned out better than I expected. I was making some pumpkin cookies, and I was going to have some pumpkin puree left over, so I started thinking of way to use it, and settled on making some soup. I added the lentils to give it some protein and make it hearty enough for a full meal, and roasted a bunch of vegetables to add to the pumpkin. This is a recipe where an immersion blender comes in extremely handy, since once I had all the ingredients in my pot, rather than blending it in shifts, I was able to just whir my immersion blender through it all and it became wonderfully smooth. It’s a great recipe for a chilly fall evening, and I’ve been having it with some toasted baguette on the side for the last few days. Here’s the recipe!

Roasted Fall Vegetable and Lentil Soup

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil (approximately)

1 acorn squash

1 sweet onion

4-6 oz carrots (I used baby carrots I had in the fridge)

1 1/2 cups split red lentils

4 cups vegetable broth

2-3 cups water (more or less depending your desired consistency)

1/2 cup pumpkin puree (this is what I had left in the can, you could do more or less, or omit if you don’t have it on hand)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425˚F and line a couple baking sheets with foil. Cut the acorn squash in half, drizzle with olive oil, and place cut side down on one of the baking sheets. Roast for about 30-40 minutes, until fork-tender.

Chop the onion and carrots, toss with olive oil, and spread out on the other baking sheet sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until fork-tender.

While the vegetables are roasting, put the lentils, vegetable broth, and 2 cups of the water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and allow the lentils to cook until soft, then add the pumpkin puree.

Once the vegetables are roasted, add them to the pot and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Add more water if you want a thinner consistency. Serve with crackers or toasted baguette and enjoy!

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Molasses Ginger Cookies and a Swim Workout

Hello! I just saw that my last post was several months ago so… I’m alive! I have also relocated to Seattle, to start physical therapy school at the University of Washington! We had our first three days of school this week, and, as it turns out, grad school is not a joke. These cookies were the result of some Friday night stress baking after getting a little bit overwhelmed by all the work we have for all of our classes already. It seems a little surreal to me that I’m actually starting PT school, after working towards it for so many years, but I’m sure the workload will soon bring me back into reality. One of my favorite things about being in Seattle is the views of Mount Rainier that pop up everywhere! Here’s just one of the views we have from campus (on a clear day).

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Anyway, onto more important things: cookies! It’s officially falltime, the leaves are starting to change color (I’m living in a place that actually has some weather now!), and, the clearest indicator, Trader Joe’s has started to carry pumpkin products! My plan is to do a review of all the TJ’s pumpkin products that I’ve tried, so hopefully that will come soonish.

Last night, I wanted to make some cookies, and I had just bought some molasses, but I realized I had no eggs. Whammy. Well, as it turns out molasses is a pretty great substitute for eggs, and gives the cookies structure and chewiness! I found this recipe from Spice Up The Curry, and doubled it, upping the spices a little bit, as is my habit. The results were an amazingly chewy, spicy cookie with a crackly sugar crusted top. Delicious! Here’s the recipe I used:

Molasses Ginger Cookies

Makes about 30 cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground ginger

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus a little more for rolling

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup unsulphured molasses

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp water

Directions:

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.

Cream together the butter and sugar until a smooth paste forms. Add the molasses, vanilla, and water, and beat until well-combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir together until a thick, slightly crumbly dough forms. Cover and refrigerate for 20-30 min to help the dough hold together.

When ready to start rolling the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚F and pour a little granulated sugar into a shallow dish.

Scoop out about 2 tsp of dough, roll into a ball (you may have to smush it a little with your hands to help it stay together), then flatten and lightly press one side into the sugar. Place the cookie, sugar side up, on a baking sheet. Place them a couple inches apart, as they will spread a bit. Repeat until your baking sheets are full. Bake for 8-9 minutes, until the tops are crackly. Remove and allow to cool before removing and eating. Enjoy!

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Now for the second part of this post, a swim workout! This is mostly for my sister’s benefit and my own use for inspiration for future workouts, but perhaps someone else can find these of use. One thing that’s very sad about moving out of California is the lack of outdoor pools here. Sigh. But it hasn’t stopped me from swimming! Here’s a workout I did earlier this week:

4400 yard Energy System Monday

200 free, non free, pull

6×50 kick/swim, 100 pull

4×50 kick/swim, 200 pull

2×50 kick/swim, 300 pull

2×50 fly/free, 300 pull

4×50 fly/free, 200 pull

6×50 fly/free, 100 pull

4x(150 IM, double odd strokes on odd 150s, double even strokes on even 150s, 3×50 fast free)

200 easy

4400 yds

Napoleon’s Hat Cookies

Happy Tuesday! It’s been a while since my last post, but on a dreary gray day like this I figure some people might need a sweet treat. I love anything and everything almond, so when my mom picked up a couple Napoleon’s Hat cookies from a bakery for us to try, I knew I just had to make them at home. These cookies are buttery, soft, with an almond marzipan filling bursting with almond flavor. Delicious. I adapted this recipe from Scandinavian Today based on the ingredients I had, and they turned out great!

Anyway, my adaptations included using 7oz almond paste instead of the 6oz marzipan called for in the recipe, since it comes in a 7oz tube. I also added a little almond extract to the cookie dough to get a little extra almond flavor, since you can never have enough. The cookies turned out soft and flavorful, and filling was deliciously chewy, and the chocolate added the perfect final touch. Unfortunately, I can’t remember how many cookies they made, but my guess is around 20. Maybe I should count next time. Here’s the recipe!

Napoleon’s Hat Cookies

Adapted from Scandinavian Today

Ingredients

Cookies:

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 1/2 oz (7 tbsp) unsalted butter

2/3 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp almond extract

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp ice water

Filling:

7 oz almond paste

3 oz granulated sugar

1 egg white

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, or 6oz chopped chocolate

Directions

To make the cookie dough, cut the butter into the flour until soft crumbs form. Add the powdered sugar, almond extract, egg yolk, and ice water. Mix until just combined. Form a disk with the dough, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for half an hour.

To make the filling, cream together the almond paste, sugar, and egg white until a smooth paste forms.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Take the chilled dough out of the refrigerator and roll to a 1/4 inch thickness. Use a glass or cookie cutter about 3 inches in diameter and cut circles. Place on a baking sheet. Scoop ball of the filling, 2 tsp each, into the center of each cut circle. Lifting the circle of dough with the filling in the middle, gently pinch together three corners of each cookie, making the triangular hat shape.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just barely golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Melt the chocolate in a shallow dish, then dip the bottom of each cookie in chocolate. Place on wax paper to cool and allow the chocolate to harden. Enjoy!

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Broccoli Cheddar Soup

It’s almost spring! Well, at least in California it certainly looks like it. Sunny skies, warm days… Yup, we have it good here in the Golden State. However, after a recent trip to Seattle, where the skies are a little cloudier, and there’s a little more rain, I decided to make a nice warm soup as part of dinner. The ingredient list is short, and the instructions are simple, but the result is a delicious, comforting soup.

I kind of made up this recipe based on how I usually make soups, and what ingredients I wanted. I used full-fat soymilk to add a little creaminess, and since that’s what we keep around the house, but you could probably use cow milk or almond milk of a low or reduced-fat variety. This was a quick soup to pull together, and with the help of my immersion blender, was blended to the perfect texture in no time! You can blend this soup to smooth creaminess, or leave with some texture, as I did. Either way, it’s delicious. Here’s the recipe!

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Ingredients

1 tsp olive oil

1/2 an onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)

1 head broccoli, cut into florets

1 quart vegetable stock

1 cup soymilk

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and broccoli, and saute until the onions are translucent and the broccoli has taken on a bright green hue. Add the vegetable stock and raise heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the broccoli is tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Add the soymilk and blend with an immersion blender until the desired texture is achieved. Alternatively, you can do this in batches in a blender, but then you have to wait for it to cool a little bit. Once the soup is your desired texture, stir in the cheddar cheese. The heat of the soup should melt the cheese, but if you had to cool the soup to blend it in batches, you can always turn on the heat for a bit. Ladle the soup into bowls. Enjoy!

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Pair it with a fresh salad and make it a meal!

Rosemary Bread

Happy February! This is my first free weekend in a month, since I’ve been traveling around interviewing at physical therapy schools and such, and I’m ready to relax. A couple weeks ago I was struck with inspiration to make a fragrant rosemary bread, since we have rosemary growing in the backyard. A quick google search brought up this recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, and I made a few modifications, but it’s mostly the same. I switched the melted butter for olive oil, and I chopped up the rosemary and soaked it in the olive oil for a little bit before adding a bit to the dough, as well as spreading it over the loaves before baking.

This bread has a tender, moist crumb, a nice crispy crust, and the delicious fragrance and flavor of rosemary. I made it for a potluck dinner, but my parents loved it and requested it more, so I made this twice within a week. It’s a very easy bread to pull together, especially with my wonderful KitchenAid stand mixer, with a pretty short ingredient list. It does require two one-hour risings, but during that time you can get a quick workout in, go to the library, do some studying, whatever it is you need to do. This bread probably takes about three hours start to finish, so it’s an afternoon project, but if you have the time, it’s worth it!

Rosemary Bread

Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Café

Makes 2 round loaves (about 12 slices each)

Ingredients

1 tbsp instant yeast

1 tbsp granulated sugar

3 tbsp olive oil, divided

1 ½ cups warm water (110-115˚F)

3-4 tbsp fresh rosemary (5-6 sprigs), chopped and divided

1 ½ tsp salt

3 ½ – 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tbsp olive oil

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the yeast, sugar, 1 tbsp olive oil, and warm water. Let stand for a few minutes, until foamy. Add in 2 tbsp of the rosemary, salt, and 2 cups flour, then mix with a dough hook. Add flour in ½ cup increments until a soft dough forms. The dough should be a little sticky to the touch but still hold its shape. Knead using a dough hook for about 5-6 minutes. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Put the remainder of the rosemary in the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil and allow to infuse the olive oil with flavor while the dough rises.

Once the dough has doubled, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch down the dough and divide into two halves. Form each half into an oval loaf, and place on baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with extra rosemary if desired. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled again, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425˚F. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before slicing. Enjoy!

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